Blessing Over Judgment

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple or Spotify.

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

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple or Spotify.

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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Year-End Review (2020 Edition)

I have the privilege of pastoring Calvary Assembly of God. One of the things I am honored to do is share a message from God’s Word with our church each week. Sharing the messages is one thing, but reminding folks of what has been shared is another. This is something that resonated with both the apostle Peter and the apostle Paul. 

Peter wrote, “Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking” (2 Peter 3:1). And Paul not only told the Romans that “I have written you quite boldly on some points to remind you of them again” (Romans 15:15), but he also taught his protege Timothy to “keep reminding God’s people of these things” (2 Timothy 2:14). 

With that backdrop, here is a listing of the sermon series that I presented this year. Clicking on each series title will take you to a list of all of the sermons in that series. 

Prayer Plan—A Christian’s strategy is worked out in the prayer closet. John Piper noted, “Why do God’s children so often fail to have consistent habits of happy, fruitful prayer? Unless I’m badly mistaken, one of the reasons is not so much that we don’t want to, but that we don’t plan to.” These messages taught us to have a plan to pray. 

Where’s God—We’ve all asked that question. Something happens that rocks our world, and we wonder where in the world God is. We call out to God and He seems silent. We search our hearts to see if we can discern something we’ve done wrong, and seeing nothing amiss we cry out again, “God, where are You?” So where is God in our heartache? In our abandonment? In our sorrows? In our distress? In death? Believe it or not, God may be closer in His silence than you’ve ever perceived before. 

We Are: Pentecostal—Pentecost for over 1500 years was a celebration in Jerusalem that brought in Jews from all over the world. But on the Day of Pentecost that came just ten days after Jesus ascended back into heaven, the meaning of Pentecost was forever changed! Followers of Jesus—now empowered by an infilling of the Holy Spirit—began to take the good news of Jesus all over the world. These Spirit-filled Christians preached the Gospel and won converts to Christ even among hostile crowds, performed miracles and wonders, stood up to pagan priests and persecuting governmental leaders, and established a whole new way of living as Christ-followers. We, too, can be Pentecostal followers of Jesus Christ today. 

Selah—The word Selah appears nearly 70 times in the Bible, almost exclusively in the Psalms. Although it is primarily a musical term, it applies beautifully to our summer series. It means a pause. Throughout the Psalms, Selah appears at the end of a verse, at the end of the psalm, or sometimes even mid-sentence. But each one of them is perfectly placed by the Spirit-inspired authors to get us to take a breath and deeply contemplate what we just read or sang. 

Major Lessons From Minor Prophets—Sometimes the naming of things gives us an inaccurate picture of the thing being named. For instance, many people think the “old” in Old Testament means outdated or perhaps updated by the “new” in the New Testament. When in fact, both Testaments are needed to give us the full picture of God’s love and glory. A similar thing happens with the headings “major prophets” and “minor prophets.” It makes it sound like the major prophets have something major to say to us, while we could take or leave the minor messages of the minor prophets. In reality, they were given these headings simply because of the volume of writing—the five major prophets consist of 182 chapters, whereas the 12 minor prophets only have 67 chapters. The volume of their writing may be minor, but their content carries major messages of meteoric power! 

Thankful In The Night—The psalmist wrote, “Yet the Lord will command His loving-kindness in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me” (Psalm 42:8). Notice that the psalmist was praising God IN the night, not praising Him FOR the night. Many people have gone through what has been called “the dark night of the soul.” I don’t think anyone has ever given thanks because of being in a dark time, but certainly they have given thanks afterward because of the lessons learned in that dark time. Quite simply put, there are some things God wants to teach us that we can learn in no other way than to go through a dark night. So we can learn to be thankful even IN those nights. 

Do Not Be Afraid—There are more angels sent by God concerning one event than anywhere else in the Bible—the Advent of Jesus. Clearly, this is a big deal: The coming to earth of God Himself! You would think this would be an occasion for great joy. But all four of the angelic appearances around the birth of Jesus have the same message: Do not be afraid. Why are people so afraid? It’s because fear invites us to make a decision to trust God completely. People remain crippled by fear when they try to deal with fear by themselves. But when they learn to fear God instead, there is an almost inexpressible joy and freedom that explodes in our hearts! 

We will be returning to a couple of these series in 2021, and we’ll be launching some brand new ones as well. In either case, if you don’t have a home church in the northern Kent County area, I would love to have you join us! 

The Legacy Of Worship

As my friend Josh Schram led us through Psalm 66 in our Selah series, I was reminded how our worship of God—especially in our trials—can leave a godly legacy that crosses generations and continents. 

There are three Selahs in this psalm. Remember that Selah is a call to pause to consider the impact of what the inspired biblical text just said to us. The Selahs in this psalm are surrounded by praise to God, as well as the impact of that praise. 

“We don’t praise God because our circumstances are good. We praise God because our God is awesome!” —Josh Schram 

 Psalm 66 could be briefly outlined like this:

  • We say to God, “How awesome are Your deeds!” 
  • Selah—pause to ponder how awesome God is. 
  • We say to others, “Come and see the awesome things God has done!” 
  • Selah—pause to let our worship of God impact others. 
  • Others join with us in saying, “God is worthy to be praised!” 
  • Selah—pause and rejoice as their praise to God reverberates. 
  • Now we can say to an even larger audience, “Come and listen to the awesome things God has done!” 

Notice that our praise of God—despite the circumstances we’re in—makes all of the other steps possible. 

“Come and see my life of praise” (v. 3) precedes the opportunity to say, “Come and listen to my testimony” (v. 5). In other words, we live out our love for God and earn the right to speak out to others about our love for God. 

Look at the same pattern in Paul and Silas:

  • They are thrown in prison on sham charges and they still are about to sing through their physical pain, “How awesome is our God!” 
  • God sends an earthquake that breaks off their shackles and opens the prison doors. 
  • The jailer asks how he also can have this kind of relationship with Jesus. 
  • Paul and Silas have the opportunity to say to him and his family, “Come and listen.” 
  • The jailer and his family accept Jesus as their Savior. 

But it’s not just this jailer. Luke wrote that the other prisoners were also listening to Paul and Silas sing about their awesome God. Through the jailer and perhaps some of these prisoners, a church was started in Philippi. 

Later on, Paul would write to this church about their partnership in ministry, and he would write to the Corinthian church about the amazing missions generosity of the Philippian church (see Philippians 1:3-5; 2 Corinthians 8:1-2). That’s what I mean about leaving a godly legacy that crosses generations and continents. 

God is worthy to be praised! Let others hear you saying, “God is awesome” even in the midst of your painful trials, and you, too, will earn the opportunity to say to them, “Come and listen as I tell you how awesome it is to be in a relationship with God through His Son Jesus!” You can be a part of this godly legacy in your community. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our Selah series, you can find the full list of messages by clicking here. 

Now And Not Yet

Psalm 68 is a Christological Psalm. That means it points to Jesus and it is fulfilled through Christ’s First and Second Advents. These types of psalms don’t make sense if they are restricted strictly to the Old Testament. 

As I have explained previously, Hebrew literature often puts the key point in the middle—in the case of this psalm, that’s verses 18-20. The opening verse sets the stage, or the scene of battle, and then right in the middle of this psalm of David is the description of God’s victory won through Jesus. 

There are three Selahs in this psalm, and I want you to notice what’s happening at each one: 

  • When You marched through the wasteland (v. 7) 
  • Who daily bears our burdens (v. 18) 
  • Sing praise to the Lord (v. 32) 

Do you remember the three definitions of Selah? A pause to consider; a breath before the crescendo; a time to weigh what’s valuable. In this case, I believe we should lean more to the second definition. Why? Because all three of these Selahs shows us what God has done, what He is still doing, and what He will ultimately do in the eternity of Heaven. I believe we are living in the breath/Selah after Christ’s First Advent and leading up to the crescendo of His Second Advent. 

Jesus is BOTH the Immanuel that came to earth at His First Advent AND the returning King at His Second Advent. We are living in an era of BOTH “now” AND “not yet.” 

The apostle Paul looks back to this psalm (especially those middle verses of 18-20) even as he looks forward to the Second Advent. He captures the essence of “now” and “not yet” in all these passages:  

Jesus paid the price for our sin.
He broke the bonds of hell and death.
He prepared the way to Heaven.
He showed the way to Heaven.
He built our mansions in Heaven.
He WILL return to take us to be with Him in Heaven!

 

So how shall we now live in this time of “now” and “not yet”? In a word: AWARE… 

  • …of His ultimate victory (Psalm 68:1) 
  • …of the desperation of the enemy. Death, sin, and the devil have been defeated! We now deal with a broken army, a scattered foe in the final death throes, a wounded, dying warrior desperately lashing out. The prince of this earth is quickly failing, while God is liberally pouring out rewards that were purchased by Christ our King! 
  • …of the brevity of this life (v. 2)
  • …of the joy of living in God’s presence (v. 3) 
  • …of the power of worship (v. 4) 
  • …of our confidence in being heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ (vv. 5-6) 

Now is not the time for fainting, but fighting the good fight. Our Immanuel has won the battle, He will continue to strengthen us every day that we walk this Earth, and He will keep us by His side as He reigns for all eternity as King of kings and Lord of lords! 

If you’ve missed any of the previous posts in this series, you can check out the full list by clicking here. 

The EGO That God Blesses

Have you ever noticed that it seems a lot easier to say, “God bless you” than it does to say, “God bless me”? Why is that? 

Do I feel unworthy of His blessing? If I am a Christian, I need to remind myself that I am in Christ, and He is in me, and He has brought me into the Father. This means that I am as blessed as the Father blesses the Son (John 14:20; Ephesians 1:3-6). God is blessed by our being blessed! 

Or perhaps I feel that “God bless me” is an arrogant prayer, while saying “God bless you” is a humble prayer. There is an EGO that God always blesses, and He delights to show us what that is!   

In Hebrew literature, the key point is found in the middle of a poem or story. In Psalm 67, that would make the middle verse: May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for You rule the peoples justly and guide the nations of the earth. Selah. (v. 4)

The nations rejoice because God judges fairly and God guides the nations. Selah—pause and take that in. The natural attitude is actually a God-negative attitude—“I prefer to be in charge … I don’t like anyone telling me what to do!” But the unnatural attitude is a God-positive attitude—“I trust God more than I trust me, so I’m glad He is in charge … I trust God to judge justly more than I trust world institutions, so I’m glad He is the final Judge!” 

This is very good news: Only God can rule and judge correctly! Men have biases and agendas; men are selfish and self-seeking; men seek their own glory and their own advancement. So the psalmist wants us to Selah/pause to remember that only God can lead and judge in a way that brings Him glory and brings us blessing. God is blessed by our being blessed! 

Working outward from verse 4, we see verses 3 and 5 are identical, teaching us that our God-honoring desire should be for all peoples in all nations to experience the blessing of an intimate relationship with God. 

A similar theme is sounded in the “bookend” verses of 1-2 and 6-7: We are asking God to bless us so that “all the ends of the earth will fear Him.” Once again we Selah/pause to consider this: Do I have the right EGO to request this blessing? Remember: There is an EGO that God always blesses.  

In his book Lead Like Jesus, Ken Blanchard identifies two types of E.G.O.s in our relationship with God:

  • Negative E.G.O.—Edging God Out 
  • Positive E.G.O.—Exalting God Only

The negative EGO says things like, “Bless me” and “Shine on me.” The positive EGO says, “Bless me so that I can be a blessing to others” and “Shine Your light on me so that others will see You.” 

Jesus told us to not let the light of our life be hidden. We are blessed by God so that we can be a blessing to all of the peoples in all of the nations. We desire that all may know the joy of serving a Righteous King. We want everyone to know the praise that comes from Exalting God Only. 

Oh God, be merciful to me. Cause Your face to shine on me. Bless me indeed so that I may teach others to fear You, so that they may come to know You as their All-Righteous, Good, and Loving King! 

If you have missed any of the messages in this series exploring the Selahs in the Psalms, you can find the full list of messages by clicking here. 

Not Shaken

“Anyone have a nice, neat, organized life that never gets rocked by anything unexpected?” he asked, not expecting anyone to answer. Let’s be honest: There’s a whole lot of shaking going on!  Not just now, but it’s always been this way. Even in 1000 BC when David wrote Psalm 62. 

Let me walk you through this psalm and offer a couple of observations. 

In the first two verses, David’s declaration sounds very religious. It sounds like what he’s supposed to say in difficult times. Yet some doubt is obviously creeping in because David refers to himself as a leaning wall and a tottering fence. It’s here that David has his first Selah pause. 

Selah—pause and calmly consider what’s happening. “If God is really such a strong rock and fortress, could bad guys really slip by Him? Is it likely that they could be trying to knock me over without God knowing about it?” Of course not! God knows exactly what is happening to me, and He’s allowed it to happen for a reason.  

After pausing to consider this, David makes a statement that sounds like he’s repeating the first verse. But notice that this time David is talking to himself: “I don’t believe God is my refuge just because my parents believed it, or just because it sounds religious. I declare it because it is true!” It’s good to preach the Word of God to our shaking souls! 

Verse 6 is a word-for-word repeat of verse 2 with one minor exception. Look at it in the NKJV: “I shall not be greatly moved” (v. 2). This means that in David’s mind there is still a possibility of getting knocked over. But then in verse 6: “I shall not be moved” has no qualifiers. Or as Matthew Henry commented, “I may be shocked, but I shall not be sunk.” 

After making the declarations of verses 1-2 his own in verses 5-6, David can no longer be called a hypocrite when he now encourages others to declare God’s salvation for themselves (vv. 7, 8). Then he invites everyone to Selah again, this time to weigh the Rock of God with the ways of men. He declares that mankind and his plans are only a breath, not even close to the weightiness of God! 

The word alone” dominates the first eight verses of this psalm. David is emphasizing that God alone is our refuge. As Augustine wrote, “God, You arouse us so that praising You may bring us joy, for You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in You.” And C.S. Lewis added, “So few of us will really rest all on Him if He leaves us any other support.” 

Sometimes God allows unrest or disquiet SO THAT we will rediscover our rest and quiet in Him alone. 

During times of shaking, David calls us twice to Selah pause to reach the same conclusion he has reached—

  • Nothing is stronger than our God
  • No one is more loving than our God

You can stand firm on a God that is powerful enough to help, and loving enough to want to help. HE ALONE is our security! Let times of shaking reveal to you the flimsy supports of this world that you may have come to rely on, and then run to THE strongest, most loving place possible: God’s presence! 

If you’ve missed any of the other posts in our Selah series, you can find the complete list of them by clicking here. 

Run To The Banner

Psalm 60 may have the longest introduction of any of the psalms, and it gives us some key historical information. David has been successful against the Philistines and the Moabites, and now he is fighting in Mesopotamia. While the army was focused elsewhere, the Edomites must have seen an opportunity to attack Israel, where they won a temporary victory (see the intro to Psalm 60 and 2 Samuel 8:1-3). 

David’s reflexive response to this temporary setback was not retaliation or blaming, but remorse and repentance. In verses 1-4 he says “You have” five times, acknowledging that God allowed this temporary defeat. He also acknowledges that only God can restore. 

Then David comes to the Selah pause: But You have raised a banner for those who fear You—a rallying point in the face of attack. Selah. (NLT) 

The Selah here is David calling us to evaluate our options just as he did. We are to consider things like: 

  • God’s help vs. our own strength 
  • the benefits of righteousness vs. the consequences of sin
  • depending on God vs. depending on man 
  • rallying under God’s banner vs. rallying under our own banner 

It’s interesting to note that in the list of David’s long string of victories in 2 Samuel 8, we read this: “The Lord gave David victory wherever he went” (v. 6). But how can that be since the Israelites were temporarily defeated by the Edomites? 

I think this is the key principle—We are more vulnerable to an attack (and a temporary defeat) after a victory than after a defeat. Why is that? Because victory tends to make us self-satisfied, but defeat tends to make us God-dependent. 

When David confesses that God has allowed this temporary defeat, he is really confessing that he had attempted to navigate things on his own. Perhaps he thought his strategy would keep Israel secure, or that his men were trained and resourced enough to be victorious, or that David didn’t even have to pay attention to the Edomites any longer. 

Whatever went through David’s mind, it was clear that he had become more self-satisfied than he was God-dependent. So David correctly recognized that he needed to run to God’s banner. He recognized that was the only secure place for him to stay. 

The Bible DOESN’T say “resist the devil and he will flee from you,” but it DOES say “submit yourself to God—run to His banner and stay under His banner—and then you can resist the devil and he will flee from you.” 

Look at the keywords in the final verse of Psalm 60: “With God we will gain the victory, and He will trample down our enemies.” 

WE WILL only because HE WILL. 

Has there been a temporary setback in your life? Repent and run to the banner of God. 

Have you felt under attack? Humble yourself and run to the banner of God. 

Have you recently won a victory? Stay humble and keep on running to the banner of God! 

If you have missed any of the other posts in this Selah series, you can find the full list by clicking here.

Trespassers

Psalm 59 is the prequel to David being betrayed by the Ziphites as well as the incident in the cave between himself and King Saul. 

This psalm is also called an imprecatory psalm, which is the theological way of saying, “Get ‘em, God!” Since King Saul has sent assassins to try to kill David, you can understand why David is praying this way. But I sort of wonder why he inserts a Selah pause after two rather angry-sounding sentences in verses 5 and 13. 

When we are reading—or even praying—an imprecatory prayer, here are some important things to keep in mind: 

  • This prayer is inspired by the Holy Spirit. All of the words in the prayer, including the Selah pauses, are directed by the Holy Spirit. Getting our angry thoughts out in God’s presence is the safest place to vent. 
  • This is a prayer for justice because an injustice has been done, not just a prayer because David is upset with someone. 
  • Since this prayer says, “Get ‘em, God,” it’s a prayer that turns matters over to God as the Ultimate Judge, taking the judgment out of my hands. 

Really this is a prayer that seeks to balance something vital: The desire to see evil punished while at the same time desiring to see all evildoers come to salvation. 

Think of it this way: When I sin, do I want to meet a God of justice or a God of mercy? Since we are to treat others the way that we would want to be treated, if I want to receive God’s mercy, I have to desire that for others too. Even those evildoers who have hurt me. 

David’s first Selah pause comes after saying that he is innocent of any offense or wrongdoing. When we pray an imprecatory prayer, we would do well to ask the Holy Spirit to search our hearts to reveal any trespasses we have committed (see Psalm 19:12-13; 139:23-24). 

David’s second Selah pause comes after he says, “Then it will be known to the ends of the earth that God rules over Jacob.” Is my “Get ‘em, God” prayer a desire for me to be seen as the overcomer or for God to be seen as glorious? 

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! 

So when you get angry enough at someone who has trespassed against you that you want to pray a “Get ‘em, God” prayer, Selah pause and pray, “Holy Spirit… 

  • …show me my trespasses; 
  • …help me forgive my trespassers; and
  • …help me to focus on my God, and not on my trespassers or my forgiven trespasses.” 

If you have missed any of the other messages in our Selah series, you can find links to all of them listed here. 

Messes

My good friend Josh Schram shared a powerful message in our Selah series. 

David is the anointed king, but instead of living in a palace, he’s living in a cave. From this cave, David gave us Psalm 57. 

Here are some of my takeaways from Josh’s message, but I would encourage you to watch this 20-minute video for yourself

Takeaways: 

  • To get where God needs me to be, I often have to go through things I never expected. 
  • Even my “cave times” are directed by God. 
  • “David didn’t get down on Saul’s level; he got down on his knees.” —Josh Schram 
  • If David had taken matters into his own hands, what would his legacy have been? Instead, he worshiped God, and let God take care of Saul. 
  • “We don’t worship God because our circumstances are good but because our God is good.” —Josh Schram 
  • My little messes become big messes when I try to handle them myself. I need to run to my Heavenly Father for help with all of my messes! 

If you have missed any of the messages in our Selah series, you can access all of them by clicking here. 

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