Monthly Archives: August 2014

Psalm 145-147; I Corinthians 11:1-15

The God who “counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name,” (Psalm 147:4); is He “who gives food to the hungry…opens the eyes of the blind; watches over the strangers,” (Psalm 146:7, 8); this same God “is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy…good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works” (Psalm 145:8, 9).

We love to read these beautiful words of how our God loves us. How easy it is to follow Him, how delightful we find it to praise and worship in His presence, in sanctuaries, in our private moments of spiritual gratitude.

Then we stumble over some passage in the Word that gives us pause or embarrassment, such as, “The head of a woman is man” – probably the most politically incorrect statement to quote today. Why? Why do we (men and women today) fear what is tradition in the church based on God’s holy word?

The obvious answer is that this pronouncement has been used to abuse, denigrate, and domesticate the female sex throughout the history of man.  I suspect, however, that this was happening even before Paul wrote those words to the Corinthians.  So perhaps the problem is not what God says (most assuredly); the problem is the automatic negative connotation we use to spin God’s words.

Anything that seems contrary to reason or individual beliefs or the social standards of the day will sink into sarcastic, distrustful rings of thought twirled around and around seeking a way to modernize or compromise simple truth. What is at stake?  The beautiful sentiments? God’s reputation as the Eternal One? Our testimonies?

Before chasing after all the Biblical commentators who can (and rightly so) give a more exact translation, in context, multi-sided explanation of this hard saying than I, consider taking this perspective:

Start with God is great. Add that His greatness is unsearchable. Then meditate on the glorious splendor of His majesty and on His wondrous works, speaking from one generation to another (excerpt from Psalm 145).  When we begin to study any word or phrase in the Bible, it is good to remember that all is written for our best interest and to cause God’s love and salvation to enter the hearts of every man, woman, and child.  From this position, it is certain that we can absorb and permeate God’s lovingkindness outlining his will for each of us. That is the one way I can begin to understand.

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Psalm 142, 143, 144; 1 Corinthians 10:14-33

With my voice I cry out to the Lord;

with my voice I plead for mercy to the Lord.

I pour out my complaint before him;

I tell my trouble before him…

I cry to you, O Lord;

I say, “You are my refuge,

my portion in the land of the living.”

Attend to my cry,

for I am brought very low!

Deliver me from my persecutors,

for they are too strong for me! Psalm 142:1-2; 5-6

My struggles bring me low, mentally and emotionally. They often feel overwhelming, especially when they seem to be never-ending. Though they are nothing like David’s circumstances were, in exile, hiding out from his enemy in caves in the wilderness, my struggles still are demoralizing and frustrating.

I personally don’t think that God puts tribulation in my path, but I do believe that He uses the struggles of my life to teach me, draw out negative character traits, and help me grow as a person and as a believer. I also am certain that He uses them to show me more of who He is, more of His faithfulness.

Sometimes it takes me a while to get over myself and my disappointment at the circumstances of my life. Sometimes it takes me a bit to realize that the enemy is trying to convince me to believe his lies. But largely, I have come to learn that in the midst of a battle I have a choice to be overcome by the situation or to trust in Jesus.

Hear my prayer, O Lord;

give ear to my pleas for mercy!

In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness!

Enter not into judgment with your servant,

for no one living is righteous before you…

I stretch out my hands to you;

my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Selah

Answer me quickly, O Lord!

My spirit fails!

Hide not your face from me,

lest I be like those who go down to the pit.

Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love,

for in you I trust.

Make me know the way I should go,

for to you I lift up my soul. Psalm 143 1-2; 6-8

He really is bigger than any of my problems. He can handle my emotions. He can handle my anger, my desperation, my hopelessness. He just wants me to be honest and to call out to Him. He wants me to come to Him in my weakness, when my spirit is failing and I am feeling deserted. He wants me to lean into His love and be carried by His goodness. He wants me to stop looking at my surroundings; and instead, He wants me raise my hands to Him in worship, lift my voice in praise, and focus my eyes on His face.

Blessed be the Lord, my rock,

who trains my hands for war,

and my fingers for battle;

he is my steadfast love and my fortress,

my stronghold and my deliverer,

my shield and he in whom I take refuge,

who subdues peoples under me. Psalm 144:1-2

When I look back at past trials in my life, I can see that His hand has guided me, that He has taught me valuable lessons. I can see that He has been my rock and my stronghold of protection. I can see that He has never left me alone, but has helped me move through the crazy mazes of life with skill and with wisdom.

Yesappa, Blessed be Your name. Amen.

 

Blessings – Julie (writing from the U.S.A.)

 

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Psalms 139-141: 1Corinthians 10:1-13

A couple of years ago, I felt trapped…stuck in some difficult circumstances that were not going to let up. In fact, I was pretty sure that things were going to get worse before they got better. There was no way out. My husband and I had to keep putting one foot in front of the other and pray for the needed patience and strength.

It was about this time, that someone encouraged me to memorize Psalm 139. I took it in small bites and memorized a couple of lines a day until I could recite it in it’s entirety. Then I took the psalm for walks…literally. I would get home from work, head out the door and recite the Psalm over and over. When there wasn’t anyone around me, I spoke it out loud. I think there were a couple times that I even yelled it. As crazy as that might sound, I learned something. How I spoke it changed how I heard it. Sometimes it was a quiet whisper my soul longed to believe; other times it was the loud affirmation of what was true about God and true of me.

The daily repetition of the Psalm began to work something new within me. David’s words became mine. My predicament remained the same, but I changed. My heart dropped anchor and held onto the fact that God was with me.  He saw me; he knew me; he understood all the frustration, all the anger inside and he wasn’t going to abandon me. No matter what the future held, he would be with me. I was his idea to begin with and he had a plan for my life. The psalm even went so far as to say that I was “fearfully and wonderfully made.” With each recitation, healing crept into this heart that had found life to be a demanding grind.

I am just beginning to learn the power of praying the Psalms. They are meant to be consumed so that God can use them to do the soul work he longs to do. They be read, prayed, sung, yelled, breathed, whispered. Anywhere we go, a psalm can go. I can jot one down on an index card, tuck it in a back pocket, try to commit it to memory and pray it in spare moments.  The Psalms have become the poetry of my heart crying out to the God who hears me and answers. With each recitation, the beauty and power of God seeps into my soul. If my memory fails, I pray that their sweetness will remain locked deep within.

klueh

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Psalm 136-138; 1 Corinthians 9

Beside the rivers of Babylon, we sat and wept
    as we thought of Jerusalem.
We put away our harps,
    hanging them on the branches of poplar trees.
For our captors demanded a song from us.
    Our tormentors insisted on a joyful hymn:
    “Sing us one of those songs of Jerusalem!”
But how can we sing the songs of the Lord
    while in a pagan land? Psalm 137:1-4, NLT

The psalmist asks how can they sing songs in a pagan land, in their tears, among tormentors–it comes just after psalm 136, a song of thanks, and the refrain is still fresh in my head.

Give thanks to the Lord.

While it’s not part of today’s reading, a verse in 1 Thessalonians 5 comes to mind about giving thanks in all circumstances. In rough patches in life, I didn’t know how to give thanks for awful things that happened. It was a huge disconnect for me: I was supposed to be thankful for (loss, betrayal, hardship)? I tried to work that out in my head and felt like I had this Christianity thing kinda wrong. How come I couldn’t be thankful for (it)? Were other Christians able to be thankful for their hardships? At some point it occurred to me: I didn’t have to be thankful for it, but I could be thankful in it.

While I wasn’t thankful for (heartache), I was thankful for my two children who’d eagerly climb onto my lap to hear a story. I was thankful for a good cup of coffee and warm socks on my feet. For chocolate in the freezer and friends who stood by me. On the hardest days, it was finding thanks anywhere I could that kept me afloat. God never failed me. He would dazzle me with sunrises (Give thanks to him who made the heavens so skillfully. His faithful love endures forever. Psalm 136:5, NLT) and surprise me with beauty in the world.

It started as a little list of little things. Of the ones I’ve numbered, I’m nearly at 6,000.

“Enjoy the little things in life because one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.”

All these little things show me that even during the roughest patches of my life, God covered me. (23 He remembered us in our weakness. His faithful love endures forever. 24 He saved us from our enemies. His faithful love endures forever. Psalm 136:23-24, NLT) He was there with me. My life wasn’t defined by the awful things, shaped certainly, but not defined. When I look back at the trials, it’s a trail of counting blessings. To think I could have kept a running written list of everything that had been wrong. My life would tell a very different story.

Though I am surrounded by troubles,
    you will protect me from the anger of my enemies.
You reach out your hand,
    and the power of your right hand saves me.
The Lord will work out his plans for my life—
    for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever.
    Don’t abandon me, for you made me. Psalm 138:7-8, NLT

Thank you, Lord, that you work out the plans for my life, for your faithful love endures forever.

Courtney (66books365)

My gratitude list was inspired by Ann Voskamp at www.aholyexperience.com.

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Ps. 133-135, 1 Cor. 8

I went about studying Psalms 135 in a way I haven’t before. Last summer I picked up a book about the words we use, in speech or in writing, and what they reveal about our psychology and personality. The authors found a number of interesting trends such as male’s tendencies to use more nouns than women, increased rates of first-person pronouns to be associated with clinical depression, and the like. 

I decided to run Psalms 135 through a word counter when I—couldn’t help—but notice the use of the word “praise.” “Praise” occurs five times in the Psalms, and behind the verb “is,” is the most frequently used verb. The second most used verb behind “praise” is “bless” which is used four times. The second most frequently used phrase, occurring 17 times, is “the Lord.” The verbs “praise,” “bless,” and the phrase “the Lord,” account for nearly 10% of the 319 words in the Psalm. 

I think this experiment would be interesting to apply to my own speech and thought life. What percent of my thoughts and words go in to praising the Lord? 1%? 2% when I go to church? Lower numbers wouldn’t surprise me. 

One of my favorite books is by Andrew Murray simply entitled Humility. The book does a thorough job examining the essential nature of humility to our faith, its centrality to growth, life, and maturity. However, the cover of the book stays with me more than any quote. It’s just a plain white bowl perhaps for some ordinary use, empty—waiting to be filled. The image is meant to represent our utility to God—just empty dishes to be filled and used again.

If I am a vessel, created in the image of God, whom God has predestined to be conformed more in His image in Christ, why would I only leak 1% of His praise?

 

Bless the Lord, O my Soul. Bless the Lord.

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Psalm 128-131; 1 Cor 7:25-40

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, And in His word I do hope. My soul waits for the Lord. More than those who watch for the morning-Yes, more than those who watch for the morning.” Psalm 130:5 &6 NKJV

I don’t like times of waiting. In a sense I feel like I am in one of those times now. Waiting to see what God will do. I had a friend remind me that when there is unrest in the soul, it could mean that God is about to do something or we need to act. I was reminded of this when I read a blog post about waiting from graceuncommon.com called, “When the Lesson is Wait.” In it she gives, 3 Reasons to find hope through a season of wait. Her suggestions are to…

1.Pray out loud

2.Keep going

3.Be expectant

The last one is my favorite, because it gets me excited to see what God will do. Even though sometimes it might be painful or mean that I have to get over myself and step out of the way. This is when I am reminded of the bigger picture. That my troubles pail in the light of eternity. And maybe God is preparing me for just that…

But this I say, brethren from, the time is short, so that from now on even those who have wives should be as though they had none, those who weep as though they did not weep, those who rejoice as though they did not rejoice, those who buy as though they did not possess, and those who use this world as not misusing it. For the form of this world is passing away.” 1 Cor 7:29-31 NKJV

Dear Father, When I get bogged down in the waiting, help me to remember the bigger picture and how short this life is. Keep me humble, remembering that You will finish the work You started in Me. Amen

Amy(amyctanner)

 

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Ps 124-127; 1 Cor 7:1-24

A song of ascents, by Solomon.

If the Lord does not build a house,

then those who build it work in vain.

If the Lord does not guard a city,

then the watchman stands guard in vain.

It is vain for you to rise early, come home late,

and work so hard for your food.

Yes, he can provide for those whom he loves even when they sleep.

Yes, sons are a gift from the Lord,

the fruit of the womb is a reward.

Sons born during one’s youth

are like arrows in a warrior’s hand.

How blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!

They will not be put to shame when they confront enemies at the city gate.

Psalm 127

– – – – – – –

It’s fitting that this Psalm fell on the schedule for me today, what a great reminder.

My wife and I celebrate our two year anniversary, and my dad read this Psalm at our wedding.

As I reflect back on the past two years I find myself asking, ‘has the Lord been building the house?’

Or have I been laboring in vain?

Working and working on being a better husband, having a better marriage, all in my own strength?

Unfortunately more often than not I’m trying to do things in my own strength instead of relying on the Lord.

The trend with me tends to be that when I’m in that mindset of focusing on my own strength, it’s generally because I’ve been lacking in 3 main areas.

1. I’m not reading the word very often.

2. I’m not praying very often.

3. I’m not serving others.

No rocket science or complex answers to the question of “How do I better rely on the Lord in the coming years of my marriage?”.

Just the answer to spend more time with Jesus, and spend more time serving others.

A house built on that will stand.

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