September 25, 2020
As I was reading this Psalm, I couldn’t help but notice the theme of God’s “steadfast love” threaded throughout this chapter. The writer sings, praises, calls upon and remembers His steadfast love. It’s interesting to me that the Psalmist intentionally uses the word “steadfast” to describe God’s love. He could have just said “God’s love” and that would have been enough, but he takes it a step further. Another word for steadfast is unwavering. The neat thing about the unwavering love of God is that it is the very essence of who God is. The Psalm does not say, “God is like” or “God sometimes gives” steadfast love, but rather reveals that steadfast love is a part of God’s character.
Understanding this aspect of God has always been a challenge for me. Sure, I can believe God is sovereign and eternal but it’s hard for me to grasp that God’s love is unwavering when everything around us screams the opposite. When I was 10, my parents divorced which left me with a broken view of what love looked like. My dad had been so consistent in my life until the divorce. Once he moved away, the word “steadfast” no longer fit into my story until Jesus came on the scene. I’m so thankful that despite whatever our circumstances might be, we can be assured in the steadfast love of the Lord. It is unwavering and unshakeable. Take a few moments today to first thank God for His steadfast love, then ask God where in your life you can trust His unwavering love even more.
Nursery/Special Events Director
September 24, 2020
I find myself rushing through the Psalms sometimes and missing the depth of imagery that offers such clarity of who God is. As I read Psalm 113, I ask myself, "Do my praises accurately reflect the God I know?"
"From the rising of the sun to its setting" (v. 3). We praise God on Sunday mornings during worship. We might praise Him for a few minutes in the car on the way to work when we hear a song we like. We are reminded here to praise Him all day long - when we wake up late because the alarm didn't go off, when we get bad news from a friend, when our kids don't put their dishes away like we asked. We are encouraged to praise Him from the time the sun rises until it sets again. How much of your day is spent praising God?
This is a Psalm of praise to a Mighty King whose glory is "above the heavens" (v.4). I don't know about you but I usually think of God in heaven. This Psalm reminds us He's above heaven, even higher than we can imagine. What does your praise reflect about how high God is? Is He "above the nations?”
"He raises the poor...and the needy" (v. 7). He doesn't just offer them a bottle of water or pat them on the back and say "I'll pray for you". He "makes them sit with princes" (v. 8). Think about that. God takes the lowest people and raises them to the highest status. What if you were to wake up tomorrow morning a prince or princess? Would you calmly say, "Thank you, God"? Or, would you call everyone one you know and shout "I'm a princess (or prince)!"? Would you break down and cry in a moment of overwhelming joy and appreciation?
My favorite part of Psalm 113 is verse 9. God doesn't just give the barren woman a home and he doesn't just give her a child. He gives her children. Does God just meet your needs? Do you have just enough food, money, energy, time or do you have more than you need?
An exclamation mark is used to indicate strong feelings or provide emphasis. Notice the number of exclamation points in this chapter: 9 verses and 6 exclamation points (67%). Is 67% of your day praising God with exclamation points?
What do your praises say about who God is?
Youth Coaching Coordinator
September 23, 2020
I’m sure I’m the only one who does this, but I find myself wasting time on social media from time to time! Covid has not helped with that! Months ago, I ran across a video of a child that was born blind, but through a procedure was given the gift of sight. It showed as she saw her mother and world for the first time. It was a total, “Is it dusty in here or what?” kind of moment! Knowing the way that moment would forever change how this little girl would experience everything, now able to see the world as it truly is was remarkable.
Jesus’ arrival on the scene completely changes the way we see all of Scripture rightly, as it truly is. But certain portions such as Psalm 110, become particularly clearer as we see it through the lens of Jesus.
Psalm 110 is written by David, though we are unsure of the reason for its composition. It is a royal psalm and not until Matthew 22 do we properly understand it. There Jesus explains that David writes prophetically of the coming Messiah who would be both his descendant (son) and his Messiah (lord), his king and priest. Jesus makes clear what had been foggy, that He was this Rescuer who had come!
V.4 speaks of Jesus being a priest forever. This role as priest means He’s our advocate before God, as One who can sympathize with our weaknesses and deal gently with us just as we need as one who understands. As king He is the rightful Lord and Master over all. Psalm 110 foresees a day when His reign over all creation will be established. We still wait for that day when justice and righteousness will be a forever reality. Sometimes when we look at our world we can be discouraged by injustice, tragedy, and we wonder what we can do. Psalm 110 reminds us of God’s goodness through Jesus our Priest who invites us to bring those requests and complaints to one who fully understands and live hopeful as we await His forever rule as our King.
Pastor of Equipping
September 22, 2020
If nations had blood pressure charts, you’d see a spike that screamed “Danger” every couple of years as election season comes nearer in our country. I’ve been following politics for a couple of decades. It seems like each election cycle we ask aloud if our country has ever been as divided; if things have ever been this bad; if the slide is greased for the demise of our country, and if we’ll ever be able to call ourselves the “United” States with a straight face again. We’re all always confident that the future of our country hangs in the balance and will tip over the edge if “those people” win, even if we never agree on who “those people” are.
We would do well to read Psalm 99 just before and after every newscast and social media scroll. It begins by recasting all political truth in light of eternal Truth. The Lord reigns (verse 1). He reigned over King David, and He reigned over King Ahab. And not just kings of Israel; kings of the nations. King Nebuchadnezzar, King Tut, Herod Antipas, Caesar Augustus, Napoleon, Queen Elizabeth, George Washington, Barack Obama, Donald Trump all answer (or will) to Him.
God sits enthroned in the heavens. He misses nothing (verse 1). He embodies power and justice, grace, and righteousness (verses 4-5). He leads His people clearly (verses 6-7), graciously and fairly (verse 8).
What’s our response when our king is a bad king? What’s our response when the king is a good king? What’s our response when we have a good king but fear a bad king? Or when we have a bad king and long for a good king? The response is peppered throughout the Psalm. Tremble, shake, exalt, call, and worship. God is not worried about this election, or the next. Does He care? Yes. He desires justice, equity, freedom, and righteousness. That’s why we don’t have to worry or rage. He’s mighty, He’s holy, and He’s enthroned. He hears us and invites us to follow Him, whether Samuel is our leader (verse 6) or we’re running from Pharaoh.
Read back over the headlines from today’s political news. Tremble over the bad news, but with an expectant heart that knows God is mighty. Rejoice over the good news, but with an awe-struck heart that exalts a holy God even higher than the best news on the page. Let the news of the day return you to worship. The Lord reigns today.
September 21, 2020
Psalm 85 – A Prayer for the Returned Exiles
85:2 – “You have forgiven the iniquity of Your people; You have covered their sin. Selah.”
85:3 – “You have taken away all Your wrath; You have turned from the fierceness of Your anger.”
85:4 – “Restore us, O God of our salvation, and cause Your anger toward us to cease. Will You be angry with us forever? Will You prolong Your anger to all generations? Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You?”
85:5 – “Show us Your mercy, Lord, and grant us Your salvation.”
85:8b – “He will speak peace to His people and to His saints; but let them not turn back to folly.”
85:9a – “Surely His salvation is near to those who fear Him.”
85:10 – “Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed.”
Growing up I had good idea of what Mercy looked like. Actually, I called her “Mom.” She seemed to always see the good in me and was full of grace even when I didn’t deserve it. And I had a good idea of what Truth looked like. I called him “Dad.” He was not so big on grace but had high standards for my behavior (which I seldom met). I think most of the people I’ve met along the way leaned one way or the other – towards mercy or towards truth.
Psalm 85 speaks of these two seemingly conflicting attributes – mercy and truth. Your Bible may use the terms love and faithfulness, but the idea is the same. The Psalmist says, “Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed.” How can that be possible?
We can all agree that God is a God of love, but if we read the whole Bible, we realize that He is also a God of justice. How can He be both? Because He is just, our sin separates us from this Holy God. He doesn’t just turn a blind eye toward our offenses, but only He could create a perfect way to redeem and make us righteous. Through His sacrificial death Christ paid in full our debt which we could never have paid ourselves. Only through the cross of Christ could God remain both just and merciful. His grace is free, but it certainly was not cheap. It cost Him His own Son.
Like the Psalmist we can declare, “You have forgiven the iniquity of Your people; You have covered all their sin. You have taken away all Your wrath; You have turned from the fierceness of Your anger.” Regarding that sin, 19th century preacher Charles Spurgeon emphasized, “All of it, every spot and wrinkle, the veil of love has covered all. Sin has been divinely put out of sight.”
September 18, 2020
In Psalm 140 we find David under intense persecution by Saul. David is calling for God’s rescue from evil men who are gathering against him- he is clearly being squeezed under pressure.
Although we may not feel like we are being conspired against in exactly the same way, life during this current season of pandemic has certainly caused increased anxiety. I have experienced moments of dread when things that I once felt were under my control (like where I was able to go and how to keep myself and my family healthy) are now clearly out of my control- resulting in my feeling squeezed under pressure.
In Psalm 140 David models how to deal with intense pressure and anxiety. In verse 4 he first calls out to the Lord “Keep me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked; Preserve me from the violent men Who have purposed to trip up my feet”. David is not demanding that the Lord bend to his own will but rather he is confident that God will come through because he has seen it done time and again.
In verses 6 and 7 we see David actively encourage himself by calling to mind that “You are my God” and the Lord is his “strength and salvation”. He also reminds himself that God has “covered my head in the day of battle.” David has a battle tested faith that enables him to humbly and confidently call out to the Lord. David’s antidote for anxiety is to remember God’s faithfulness and protection in days past.
After calling out to the Lord and reminding himself of God’s faithfulness we see that David is then able to break free of the intense personal pressure and pray for the assurance and comfort of others who are afflicted. In verse 12 and 13 he says “I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted and justice for the poor. Surely the righteous will give thanks to Your name; The upright will dwell in Your presence.”
As I am squeezed by the pressure and anxiety of the day, whatever those worries may be, I pray that I can follow David’s example of being quick to humbly and confidently call out to the Lord and remind myself of His faithfulness that I have experienced throughout my life. As my own concerns fade I pray that, like David, I will be equipped to then show and tell others about the God I serve.
September 17, 2020
Sometimes life is hard. You get the diagnosis, the divorce is finalized, the debt keeps growing, the loneliness sinks in, the company goes under, the list could go on and on. Sometimes it can be enough that it makes you want to scream.
I don’t know about you but sometimes I think those emotions are wrong. I think somehow, I’m not allowed go to God in the moments when I feel completely overwhelmed and heartbroken. But David shows us something completely different. In Psalm 13 David cries out to God. Not just a pretty, perfect cry. A brokenhearted, aching, passionate lament.
The short 6 verse Psalm starts with a series of honest, heart felt cries to God.
David says “O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?” Have you ever felt like God has forgotten you? Like you can’t sense Him there.
David continues, saying “How long will you look the other way?” Doesn’t sorrow feel like that sometimes? Like God is looking somewhere else?
He even goes as far as to ask, “How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day?” That’s what real sorrow feels like; hitting you hard every single day. Have you felt that before?
David asks “How long will my enemy have the upper hand?” Isn’t that how life feels sometimes? Like the sinful brokenness of this world is winning?
Those questions are harsh and intense. Yet, just like David, we’ve all felt them before. It’s okay to ask God hard questions, but verses 5-6 show us how to respond to those questions even as we ask them.
“But I trust in your unfailing love.
I will rejoice because you have rescued me.
I will sing to the Lord
because he is good to me.”
David’s response to the messy, confusing, difficult things of life is to recommit Himself to rejoicing in God. He responds with trust. He responds with singing. He responds with praise. He responds with worship. Friends, hard times are a part of life, but so is the UNFAILING, UNENDING, OVERPOWERING love of God. How will you respond in light of His love today?
Associate Youth Director
September 16, 2020
I had the privilege of hunting pheasants at an amazing South Dakota farm for five years. At the completion of every hunt, we gathered at the bird processing hut for group bird cleaning. Tradition required everyone to participate in the messy task, with no exceptions. The session began with the same music CD for each of my five years. I wasn’t a die-hard Johnny Cash fan, but I do like tradition. And, I must admit that the music made our hour-long task seem light-hearted. When I hear Johnny Cash today, it takes me back to that time.
Psalm 120 is the first of fifteen Psalms put to song known as Psalms of Ascent. These were the Psalms sung by Jewish worshippers as they traveled to Jerusalem for each of three annual feasts. The route was uphill all the way as Jerusalem is 2800 feet above sea level. Jesus would have sung these Psalms as his family traveled for the feast of the Passover when he was twelve years old (Luke 2:41-42). These songs are also called “ascent” because they begin in Psalm 120 with the believer calling out to God "on the ground" and end with the believer praising God for His response from the heavens.
The writer knows in Psalm 120, that in his moments of distress, God is there ready to listen and to act to pleadings and prayers. And, His actions are swift and accurate as the arrow of a seasoned warrior. His actions are as enduring as the coals of the broom tree known for its rock-hard wood that, when burning, holds heat for days or weeks.
Psalms 120 is one of many Psalms that asks, “How long?”, but it is the only Psalm that answers, “Too long.” Distressing times remind us that we are foreigners in this world. Songs like Psalm 120 remind us not to forget Home as we walk through the mess of life.
September 15, 2020
In my life, being a type “A” personality, when I have had difficult challenges or problems to solve, my first reaction usually is let's “git er done”. My first tendency is to dive right in and then somewhere along the process of fixing whatever issue I have, I then remember to pray and ask God what He thinks and for His wisdom and strength. It’s not exactly the model God wants us to utilize.
In Psalm 101 we see King David, after being anointed for the 3rd time, getting ready to take over from King Saul and his disastrous reign. David knows he’s going to have be resolute and blameless in his behavior as king and will be forced to make some tough decisions (verses 3-6).
For me, the key to the Psalm is how he prepares for the tough times he’s facing. In verses 1-2, he says; 1 I will sing of your love and justice; to you, Lord, I will sing praise. 2 I will be careful to lead a blameless life- when will you come to me? I will conduct the affairs of my house with a blameless heart.
Before David gets in the middle of a really tough run of decisions, he praises the Lord for His “mercy and justice”. David knew the Lord was the source for mercy and justice. Then in the middle of verse two, sandwiched in there, David says “when will You come to me”? David knew that God’s close presence in his life would be the source for him to behave wisely (certainly not perfectly as we see later on).
What a fantastic reminder that we need to go to God FIRST when we get ready to take on tough challenges.
September 14, 2020
I remember years ago when I was in a Young Life club. Club always started with loud, happy songs which pulled us into the mood, and showed that being a Christian didn’t have to be boring. But as club progressed, the songs usually became quieter in spirit to get us ready for the talk that would be given.
Psalm 95 is a similar experience, with immensely serious consequences. The Psalmist calls the people to joyful singing about the Lord. He encourages them to shout loudly in praise. Come thankfully, and lift Him up with music and melody. But as worship continues, the tone grows more thoughtful: The Psalmist observes that God is the great God who has made everything, and owns it all. But then, he calls the people, instead of loud and boisterous praise, to bow down, to kneel, because this great God is our God, and He has made even us. We are His. We are his flock, and under His care.
And then, worship even hits a crisis. The Psalmist starts, “Today, listen to Him!” God reminds His people that their ancestors would not believe God; they did not trust Him to provide. They complained and grumbled when things did not happen the way they thought it should be. These were people who had seen the plagues in Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, daily manna, and protection throughout their journey. God told them they would never enter His rest because they did not trust Him. Serious charge!
There is definitely a time for loud and joyful praise. Several of the Psalms call us to do it. But it shouldn’t be without the root of our trusting Him. When life is unpredictable, and difficult, and stressful, do we remember to look to Him, and trust that He will provide, as He has always done before?
Good practice: keep a list of things God has done for you. When you are tempted to doubt, remind yourself of the things on that list.
September 11, 2020
“Poor and needy?” These are the only words King David uses to describe himself in this Psalm. It’s a Psalm about enemies at the doorstep and the immediate need of deliverance. But David doesn’t take this opportunity to tout his great army or great wealth. The only boast that this mighty king makes is that “The Lord is great!” David recognized that he actually brought nothing to the table- all he had, all he was, came purely from God’s grace and provision. And the urgency with which David pleads to God, I think, further underscores his reliance on the Lord. In such dire circumstances, he didn’t default to his own strength. David went straight to prayer. He knew his survival was completely dependent on God showing up, and He had to show up, now!
As you read Psalm 70 a 2nd and 3rd time, (you can do it – its only 5 verses!) take note of David’s tone. He’s pleading for God’s help but he does it in such a bold, convicted way. It almost reads like an order. He even lays out a laundry list of what he wants God to do to his enemies. I mean, isn’t it up to God to decide what He’ll do to David’s enemies? And when He’ll do it to them? As I struggle with these questions I’m brought back to God’s own words about David. He called David “a man after My own heart.” David even became a kind of measuring stick God used when assessing subsequent kings’ hearts. So, there was something special about David’s relationship with God – a closeness. He was so in tune with God that God’s desires were his own. In Psalm 70, David is simply saying, “Father, do what you desire to do and bring glory to Your name.”
I think God so desperately wants us to plead with conviction for Him to show up for our desires that we know align with His. Let’s pray bold prayers, just as David did. And may we always say, “The Lord is great!”
September 10, 2020
It was only a matter of time. This pandemic has lasted so long, I have exhausted all my regular TV shows and resorted to watching black and white sitcoms from the 1960’s. Recently I watched as Barney Fife decided his friend and boss, Sheriff Andy, was secretly planning an engagement to his long-time girlfriend, Helen Crump. Barney just couldn’t keep the secret: he went from the barbershop to Aunt Bee to the gas station, all over town spreading the exciting news! His excitement caused such a stir, soon all of Mayberry was buzzing with the celebration of the joyous news!
In Psalm 66, we see a similar sense of excitement as David declares who God is and what He’s done for him. He doesn’t just tell the news, he shouts it! His enthusiasm is contagious-he uses the word “awesome” twice in his description of all that God has laid out in his path.
David invites us to “come and see what God has done.” We have a front-row invitation to be included in praise to a God who has brought us through countless obstacles “to a place of abundance” (v. 12). David recounts specific times in the past where God has shown up: turning the sea into dry land, protection from rebellious nations, preservation from enemies, captivity. David leads all those around him in songs of praise for all that God has brought them through. As he remembers, he can’t help but tell everyone around him about all the ways God has heard his prayer and shown Himself as a deliverer.
What would Fort Worth look like if all of us shared our joy and thankfulness for all that God has done for us out loud to our own little circle of people we encounter today? Take a moment to imagine what that might look like: the checker at the grocery store, the staff at the restaurant where you get take-out, the attendant who checks your card at the wholesale store. What impact could a simple voice of praise to a God who’s given to us abundantly have on someone else’s day? Today, play your best “Barney Fife” and tell the great news of an awesome God to everybody in your “Mayberry!”
September 9, 2020
Reading the Psalms has been such an encouragement to me during this season. Psalm 146 brings particular comfort in two ways: it reminds us of something and redirects us toward something. The writer of this Psalm reminds the reader not to “put their trust in princes, in a son of man.” Then, he redirects our focus back to WHO really matters. It’s nice to know that I am not the only one who needs to be redirected time and time again! It is so easy for me to trust what is tangible in the moment and lose my way, it's no wonder I am left feeling discouraged and disappointed. This Psalm reminds me of my shortcomings but also leaves me encouraged by who my God is and His faithfulness to such a stubborn heart.
In this Psalm, the writer reflects on how God has provided for such a wayward people; how He has opened blind eyes, set prisoners free, upheld the fatherless. Despite their fickle ways, God chose to show up. Take heart because this remains true for us today. I don’t know about you, but choosing to look at what is right in front of me has become effortless in this season. You could say that of the Israelites as well. However, the story doesn’t end with our failures (praise God for that!). The Psalm ends with a God who showed up, who continues to show up despite our fickleness. As you read this Psalm, reflect on how God has shown up. Take a few minutes to remember and redirect your thoughts toward God’s faithfulness in your life.
Nursery/Special Events Director
September 8, 2020
When I was in college, I took a trip with some friends to the Grand Canyon. To get to the main visitor center, you have to walk up some stairs. As you near the top of the steps you see the panoramic vista of the Grand Canyon unfold before you that takes your breath away. As you see the Grand Canyon stretch out before you, it truly leaves you silent and you stand humbled. You feel just how fragile and small you really are.
Psalm 128:1 starts with the idea that if you have a fear of the Lord you will be blessed. When the Bible talks about having a fear of the Lord, it does not mean being afraid of God like a child who has done something wrong is waiting in fear for their parent to come and discipline them. Instead, this fear comes by encountering something that is so great it's scary. It's so impressive that it puts you in your place. The Psalmist is urging us to recognize that God is God and we are not.
When we recognize that, we realize that maybe we don't know everything. Maybe our way is not the best way. A fear of the Lord leads us to submit ourselves to the way God wants us to live. We recognize that God is God and His ways are best - even better than our own desires or feelings.
As you face questions about how to save and spend your money or about how you should pursue your spouse, love your kids, confront a roommate. Pause to ask yourself, “If the bigness of God was spread out in front of me, how would I respond?” On the other side of that “fear,” you find blessing.
September 7, 2020
For me, after God has delivered me from something hard, I often find myself thanking Him, praising Him; recognizing all He has done for me. And yet, when I am in the middle of a battle (or even just having a “normal” season), I often forget to thank Him, praise Him, or even notice all He has done for me. What would happen if every morning I said out loud:
I love the Lord
He heard my voice
He heard my cry for mercy
He turned His ear to me
He is gracious and righteous
God is full of compassion
He protects the simplehearted
He puts our souls to rest
He is GOOD to me
He has delivered my soul from death
He has delivered my eyes from tears
He has delivered my feet from stumbling
He has freed me from my chains
Without a doubt, it would change my perspective….would change how I approach my life and those around me. How can we possibly repay Him for all His goodness? It tells us in this Psalm: Lift up the cup of my salvation & call on His name and fulfill our vows to Him in the presence of His people…I love action steps and these are keepers!!!
If you have a chance today listen to this song: “You Keep On Getting Better” by The Worship Initiative. Spend some moments thanking God, praising Him; recognizing what He’s done today. Even in the middle of the battle, or at the beginning of an otherwise “normal” day.
Women's Ministry & Special Events
September 4, 2020
One of the many things I love about Doxology is how we do baptisms. I love when we stand to our feet, clap, cheer, hoot and holler when a brother or sister in Christ goes public with their faith. Baptism is definitely a time to "Praise the Lord!" In those moments though, I think we are barely scratching the surface of what is meant in Psalm 150 to "praise Him."
When I read (and reread) Psalm 150, I feel something well up inside me like I'm at a pep rally. I can't fight the urge to stand to my feet. It's as if the author can't get their hands on enough things to bring to our attention. Whatever can make the most obvious gesture to "praise Him" and bring admiration, glory and honor to the Lord. Sure, we say "Thank you, Jesus, for our food," "Praise you, Jesus, for the new job," "Thank you, Jesus, you healed me from an illness or disease," but how often do we really "praise Him" for all He's given us? Praise Him for what He's done in and around us? Praise Him for who He is? Praise Him simply because He's the Lord?
This has been a difficult season. The truth is we will all likely face other difficult seasons. What if we took time to look for reasons to Praise the Lord, regardless of what our life circumstances are at this very moment? Praise the Lord and don't worry what anyone else around us thinks, just go crazy for Jesus!
Wouldn't it be great for your parents, or your children or your neighbors to ask "What's got you so excited?" and then take the opportunity to tell them about Jesus?
Youth Coaching Coordinator
September 3, 2020
The destruction and discouragement that this Psalm speaks of is most likely the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by Nebuchadnezzar. Psalm 79 is a Psalm that would lead us, in blessed seasons, to be thankful for all that we have. But in our own season of discouragement and hardship, it is a needed reminder to look to the Lord and choose to trust Him.
I, personally, have two takeaways from this Psalm. First of all, I find solace in the first portion of the Psalm. It is freeing and helpful to read another's complaint before the Lord in a hard season. I appreciate the precedent that is set here that God is willing and able to hear our emotions, no matter what they are. Over the past several months, there have definitely been times when I have needed to tell Him my anger, my discouragement, my frustrations, my doubt; and we see in this Psalm that many have done that same thing before us. The really remarkable thing is that God not only heard them, He honored their emotions so much so that He chose to put their words in Scripture.
Secondly, I find a challenging reminder in verse 13..."But we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will give thanks to you forever; from generation to generation we will recount your praise." After verses and verses of questions, anger, and discouragement, this is how the Psalmist ends. He starts by reminding himself that God is his shepherd...He is protecting him and looking out for him. Then the Psalmist makes the choice to be grateful. And finally, he chooses, despite the hardship he is currently in, to leave a legacy of praise for all of those that will come behind him.
This Psalm reminds me that it's okay be honest about my hard emotions before the Lord. But that it's important to also remind myself of truth and act on that truth, even when I don't feel like it. I encourage you in the next few minutes to consider what precedent set in this Psalm you need to follow today.
Associate Young Adults Director
September 2, 2020
When I was a kid I was terrible at sports. Now, as an adult, I'm still terrible at sports. I guess the only difference is that, unlike my younger self, I'm now aware of it. When I was a kid they gave out trophies to the players who hit the hardest, ran the fastest, had the strongest arm or the best aim. So basically, my trophy cabinet quickly became a place to display all my Batman action figures (side note: ask me about it if you see me. I'd love to talk Batman with you). All of that to say: as a kid I was taught that you had to work hard to be recognized and had to be better than everyone else if you wanted to succeed - or, get a trophy.
Fortunately, that's not the way it works with God. God isn't impressed with our skills or ability. Reading through the first 11 verses of Psalm 147 we see a God who cares deeply for his people. It tells us that He builds up His people, He stretches across borders and boundaries to reclaim those who have been outcasts (v2). He cares for those who are broken, those who have hit the very bottom (v3). And it says He sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground (v6). Real quick, raise your hand if you're humble. :)
What's even more amazing about a God who cares deeply for His people is when you compare it to how vast and mighty our God is. Psalm 147 says He determined the number of stars and calls them by name (v4). It says He is mighty and powerful and that He has no limits (v5). Like, no limits at all. Zero. None. It goes on to say that He commands the clouds and calls forth the rain (v8).
If God gave out trophies, verses 10-11 would be the main criteria. It's not the strong, the powerful, the skilled or the best. The Psalmist is using some imagery here that basically means that God isn't impressed with our strength or skill. God delights in those who find their hope in Him. Period.
Spend a few minutes in prayer asking God to reveal to you ways in which you've relied on your own strength or skill instead of relying on Him. Ask Him to renew and grow your hope in His unfailing love.
September 1, 2020
We live in a world that is filled with injustice. And when our hearts break, as the world breaks around us, its normal to find ourselves joining the cry of the Psalmist in Psalm 82. In verse 2,
"How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah"
It seems to the Psalmist as if God isn't present; as if He isn't watching or in control. But He is. If we go back to verse 1 the Psalmist confirms that.
“God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgement.”
Against all other rulers, authorities, and even other idols, our God is delivering his people from their captors.
In verses 3 and 4 the Psalmist references five types of people that need rescuing and comfort from an ever-present God.
All of us experience these things to varying degrees, and this should add to our joy and worship! We are weak and needy but our God will deliver us, we are fatherless and afflicted but our God will care for us. And to top all of it off, at the very end, we get a beautiful glimpse as to what happens at the end of the book, what happens on the last day.
“Arise, O God, judge the earth;
for you shall inherit all the nations!”
Spend a few minutes today rejoicing in the ever-present help of God, even while you wait for Him to show Himself in whatever situation you’re facing today.
August 31, 2020
One of the hardest things to get across to a kid is the concept of waiting. My youngest son struggles when we tell him, “ten more minutes,” or “an hour.” It’s not just that he struggles with those concepts, but he also doesn’t know what to do while he waits. Have you been there? Found yourself in a season of waiting but not really knowing how to live or what life should look like in the waiting?
Psalm 130 was written for those in the waiting to show them how to face their current trials with hope. Verses one and two provide the setting. He is crying out to the Lord, ”from the depths” or some trial. In verses three and four we see the reminder as to why he can cry out to God, because God does not deal with us nor is our relationship with Him on the basis of our deeds but based on His forgiveness.
As a result, the command in verses five and six are twofold; wait and watch. Wait for Him, remembering that the trial you face today is not always. This is a momentary affliction. For He has promised to come again and wipe every tear, and put away all that is broken. As we wait, we are to watch just like the night watchman waiting for dawn. Years ago we had a large window in the front of our house. Our son was little and would play at that window in the afternoon watching for me to come home. He knew I had said I was coming and he was watching for that moment. That’s what hope is! It’s this eager anticipation of what and Who is coming. That hope isn’t always easy in the trial, but must be anchored to His promises (v.5).
Are you living in the depths and wondering how long? As you wait, Psalm 130 encourages all to watch for Him as you wait. Draw near, anchoring your hope in His promises, and knowing there is forgiveness and abundant redemption in Him.
Pastor of Equipping
August 28, 2020
In Psalm 149:1-6 the Psalmist instructs God’s people to worship by saying: “be glad,” “rejoice,” “sing for joy” and “exalt in glory”. When I read these instructions I think of the closing ceremonies at Pine Cove camp where the parents come pick up their children from a week or two at camp. The worship is exciting, full of music, shouts and praises. The campers and counselors' joy is contagious and always makes me think how different my own worship would be if I matched even a fraction of their joyous fervor.
Psalm 149 makes a sharp turn in the middle of verse 6 which is about going into battle against God’s enemies. God rewards and He judges - both deserve our praise. Ancient Israel was instructed at times to go to war against other nations. What does a “two-edged sword” look like in the hands of a believer today? The sword is God’s word that can pierce the soul. We find ourselves in a spiritual battle that requires the indwelling of the Holy Spirt for strength, courage and direction. (Hebrews 4:12, Ephesians 6:11-20). Seeking God first and following His direction into battle, we are to prepare for a spiritual battle each day.
Verses 7-9 give us a prophetic picture of the passages in 1 Corinthians 6:2-3 and Revelation 19:11-16. There will be judgment of those who don’t follow God. The two-edged sword serves two purposes: it defends against enemies and it delivers the one who holds it. Our daily time in God’s word is crucial in allowing His Word to do both in us.
Spend some time today asking God to restore your joyous fervor for worship, and to prepare you with His Word for the battles you'll face today.
August 27, 2020
Growing up on a dairy farm, seeing a semi-truck loaded with alfalfa hay barrelling down the dusty road to the hay barn meant one thing: don’t expect much under the Christmas tree this year. That’s what happened when our hay meadows failed to produce abundantly. Dairy cows need a plentiful supply of food and water to produce milk. This remembrance (and you may have one too) seems to stand in stark contrast with most of Psalm 65. Abundance is celebrated. As a harvest psalm, it sets forth praises and declares that God is our Redeemer, Creator, and Provider.
I like that the Psalm opens with, “Praise is awaiting You, O God...”. This praise is a submissive reverence of wonder and awe and then that awe burst into shouts to God because He sent Christ to atone for our sins. Christ is our Redeemer (v. 1-4). Rest in that thought. Praise God that He has made a way for salvation. Furthermore, God is Creator (v. 5-8). All creation is praising Him. So join in. Glorify God and honor Him. Revel in an inspiring sunrise or a magnificent sunset. God created each just for you.
Finally, (v. 9-13) God is Provider. The earth does not produce until God acts. In these verses, act He does. Rain softens the earth; plants and animals “clothe the pastures.” Nature declares God’s goodness. Praise Him just like the abundant harvest yields testimony to God’s generosity.
God provides. He is sovereign over all even if it’s a semi-truck loaded with alfalfa hay instead of hay bales from our own meadow. Sometimes His provision looks different from our expectations. However, we can rest and trust in Him, all the while gratefully praising Him for the great things He has done as our Redeemer, Creator, and Provider.
August 26, 2020
I don’t know about you, but for me, promises are a big deal. Promises made and kept mean the development of a deeper relationship. They are the earmark for trust. The Bible is filled with promises. Actually, from beginning to end, the Scriptures are a promise that God will reveal himself to us and we will never be alone. Psalm 132 is a declaration of God’s faithfulness to keep his promise to David and vice versa. God calls this particular kind of promise a covenant. Covenants go even deeper than promises. They define our relationship with God.
Psalm 132 begins as a prayer reminding God of the promise that David made to him-that David would find a place and build a house of worship for the Lord (v.2-5). The prayer then turns to remind God of his promise to David: that David’s bloodline will reign forever (v. 11-12). God doesn’t need to be reminded of his promises. He is not a forgetful God. Often, however, our prayers turn to a place of crying out what we already know to be true. In moments of doubt, weakness, or fear, we plead with God and ourselves that these promises given to us in Scripture are true.
In verse 12, the Psalm says, “If your sons keep my covenant and the statutes I teach them, then their sons will sit on your throne for ever and ever.” My fleshly heart read this, and at first glance thought, “Well that seems awfully conditional.” If you and I know God’s promises to be true, then we know that our God is NOT conditional in his love for us. When we read this Psalm, we have to remember that David’s heirs and all of God’s chosen people (including us) will inevitably fail at keeping promises and following rules. This is a part of who we are-we fail. This is not a part of who God is. He chooses, through David’s bloodline, to place Jesus on the eternal throne of Kingship over his people. God not only upholds his covenant with David, he upholds his covenant to all of us.
This promise is that Jesus’ blood will ALWAYS cover our sins, the Holy Spirit will ALWAYS remain with us, and our Father will ALWAYS be chasing after us. We live in this covenant with God, and it defines our relationship with him, and his relationship with us. If you struggle to remember these promises of God, then take the time to write your own Psalm of declaration. Cry out to him, reminding yourself of who he is and how he never fails.
August 25, 2020
I vividly remember the day I got to experience flying in an airplane for the first time. We flew all the way to Houston! I won a drawing with my sister for the window seat and sat transfixed the entire flight with the beauty and majesty of being “in the clouds.” I loved watching cars and houses become tiny miniature objects as we rose higher and higher. Looking out, there was nothing but blue sky as far as I could see. Even though our plane held hundreds of people, it was clear we were but a small speck in the expanse of the heavens.
When I read Psalm 108, I am overwhelmed with the enormity of God’s love for me. In verse 4, David writes, “For great is your love, higher than the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies.” Being in an airplane at 30,000 feet above the ground seems an incredibly big feat to me, but it pales in comparison to the expanse of love that God has for me. I am His chosen one, and He moved heaven and earth to bring me back to Himself through His son. His love for me is as breathtaking as viewing the heavens out of that small airplane window.
But if that’s not enough, I can also consider the second part of that verse: His faithfulness to me. He is for me. He believes in me. In every situation, He is working for my good. His covenant to be my God forever reaches to the heavens.
As I consider all that this verse means for me, there is only one appropriate response. “I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, and let your glory be over all the earth.” (vs. 3,5)
Spend a few moments outside today looking up at the heavens. Consider their magnitude and contrast that with the vastness of God’s love and faithfulness to you. How can you give God your praise for all the ways He has shown His love to you, even in this season of difficulty? Who can you tell of His faithfulness today?
August 24, 2020
Last week I was praying with a friend who is going through a difficult time. He was recounting a time in his daughter’s life when she admitted to a friend that she just didn’t have any faith she was going to make it to the other side of her struggle. The friend’s response changed her life. He said two words: “Borrow mine.” When times are exceptionally difficult, it’s helpful to have “we” instead of just “me.”
The first word of Psalm 75 jumps out at me for that reason: many of the Psalms are written about one person’s perspective, struggles, or commitments. Psalm 75 describes the activity of “We.” That’s especially poignant when you look at where “We” is placing its faith: in the timing of God (v. 2), the enduring strength of God (v. 3), and the judgment of God against arrogant, wicked, powerful, loud enemies (v.4-8). Aren’t those the moments when most of us find ourselves needing to live on borrowed faith?
I’m convinced the last two verses of this Psalm were written months, or years, after the first 8. But what an encouragement to see them there. In verses 9-10, notice how borrowed faith becomes personal. “Me” is able to express what only “We” could proclaim before.
This is one of the reasons church matters so much. We’re living in a world full of crisis combined with social distance. “Me” has a lot on its hands, and a lot of time to itself. Today, take some time to look on both sides of yourself. Who are the people near you who need strength or faith or trust in an area where you could say “Borrow mine” today? And list a couple of the specific areas you’re needing to lean on the strength of someone else these days. How, specifically and intentionally, can you be a part of “We” this week?
August 21, 2020
Every time I read the story about Adam and Eve hiding from God in the garden after they had sinned I think, “Why would a person ever try to hide from God? It’s impossible. He’s... God! He’s the Ultimate Finder in hide and seek.” But then I realize, I do the exact same thing almost every time I mess up! When I know I've messed up I find it really hard to admit to God what I’ve done. I hope He didn’t see it; that it’s been hidden from Him... That I’ve been hidden from Him.
Psalm 32 makes it clear that I don’t need to fret over admitting my sin to God because He is a forgiving God! In verses 3-4 you see David is wrestling with the same problem we struggle with. He has committed some sin and he is resistant to admit it to God. He explains that keeping those sins to himself is wearisome and weighty on him. Then in verses 5-6 David offers those sins up to God and is open and honest about them. Notice how God responds (or doesn't respond). God doesn’t throw a lightning bolt down from heaven to smite David. He forgives David and lifts the weight that David was carrying off of him.
Then notice in verse 7 that David calls God his “hiding place.” What a complete 180! David went from hiding FROM God to hiding IN God and it makes all the difference for him.
God desires for us to hide in Him not from Him. He seeks to offer refuge, not revenge to those who are His! Is there something in your life you’re trying to hide from God, that you just need to confess to Him? Or is there a mind shift that needs to take place for you, like it does for me? God desires to lift the burden off of us when we come to Him rather than make life harder on us. Spend some time refusing to hide from God today. See if you don’t walk a little lighter from here.
Associate Mobilization Director
August 20, 2020
My late May Michigan wedding was joyous, but a lot of planning went into it. Months before the special day my mother and I poured over the details: My simple A-line dress with a coordinating rosebud crown, the music list for the string quartet, the mashed potatoes… or were they scalloped? Every detail mattered, but the most important detail to me was the 300-person guest list.
The writer of Psalm 45 begins with "My heart overflows with a good theme" as he anticipates the marriage of the king (possibly King Solomon). All the sights and smells and well wishes of the wedding are described: the King in his splendor (vs. 3-5), the fragrance and music (vs. 8), the noble attendants (vs 9), and beauty of the queen bride dressed in gold (vs 9-14). Every blessing is bestowed on this couple, not just for the day but for the future, as well (vs.16-17). In fact, this Psalm says the words "forever and ever" three times.
I loved my wedding day, and even still it wasn’t perfect. However, Psalm 45 invites us to picture a perfect wedding that is still in the future… and everyone is invited!
In Revelation 21, the apostle John uses the picture of a future wedding to describe the union that will take place between Jesus and His bride the Church. As believers, we have an invitation to this wedding - the only perfect wedding. Even more, we get to be a part of it! It's a marriage that Christ began planning in every detail before time began, with a wedding reception that will last through eternity! Today, let your "heart overflow with a good theme" as you thank God for the future you have with Christ.
Who in your life needs an invitation to this wedding? Ask God to bring them to mind. Pray He will prepare their hearts to accept this invitation and to allow Him to crown them with a crown of their own.
Executive Team Admin
August 19, 2020
Did you know that one of the biggest killers in our country is loneliness? It’s sad but true. Those under the age of 40 have been called “the loneliest generation”. This loneliness leads to mental health issues, it leads to us taking poor care of ourselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The hard part is that most people that are lonely will never admit that they are lonely.
If that’s you today, I’m praying for you, and I pray that Psalm 68 brings you some encouragement. David, in verse 5-6 talk about God being there for the lonely. Whether they are lonely because of circumstance or lonely because of life choices; God is still with them and for them.
David models a bit of how we can help those that are lonely, and if that’s you today; follow in David’s footsteps. We see that David spends a lot of verses (7-31) praising God. He praises God in big ways and in small personal ways. He starts with a posture of gratitude and of hope. Praise and gratitude are balms for our lonely hearts. They help us be reminded of all the ways that God HAS been there for us. They help us be reminded of all the ways God has kept His promises.
David also uses this section to speak of God’s power. We often think of ourselves as insignificant in the eyes of God, and yet Jesus is the proof that we’re not. Jesus would not have sacrificed his own life for something insignificant. He would never have given us His Holy Spirit if we were insignificant. Jesus wants a deep personal relationship with you. Yes, you!
Jesus can draw anyone out of a season of loneliness. If you find yourself there today, start praising God. Be reminded of how He’s been there for you and moved in your life before. If someone you know is lonely, be an encouragement to them. Be light in a dark time, be a listening ear, a warm hug, or some kind of blessing before today is over.
August 18, 2020
There aren’t many things more disappointing than opening a bag of chips. What you see in the store is a bulging, full, family-sized bag of potato chips. What you find once they’re yours is a bag full of air with what look like the remains of some other family’s snack leftovers. Not what you signed up for.
Let’s be honest: Does life with God ever feel that way for you? You signed up for “I will never leave you or forsake you.” Today you feel forgotten and rejected? You signed up for “The Lord is my shepherd,” and “Amazing Grace.” Today you feel like the Forgiving Shepherd is anything but? That’s what the Psalmist struggles with in Psalm 74. “Lord, why do your enemies seem to be winning the day everywhere we look?” Have you wondered that? Disease is no respecter of persons, our worldview is less popular than ever, and we’re not getting daily emails from God with any more insight about how long this will last than our enemies are (74:9). Asaph feels like maybe you feel today, wondering if life with God is just a big, fat, over-inflated disappointment.
Verse 12 is the turn. Two words: “But God.” The two most important words in the Bible. And notice the combination of present and past tense. Asaph realizes that the key to hope for the future in our disappointment today is a clear and active memory of the past.
Asaph runs through the history books of life with God. A long disappointment when it looked like all was lost, and then the Exodus (74:13-14), weeks and months of thirst and then water came forth from the rock, and spring up in the desert for Elijah (74:15). The Spirit hovered above the chaos before life erupted in all its glory (74:16-17) Asaph remembers who God is and what God always does. Rather than cynicism, discouragement and despair he realizes that a season of waiting can only mean one thing: a miracle is right around the corner.
Take some time putting Asaph’s words from 74:18-23 into your own words. Pray them back to God. And then spend a moment thanking Him that He always over-delivers on His promise. Life with Him is all that and a bag of chips.
The key to hope is an active memory.
August 17, 2020
Before you dig too deep into Psalm 72, take note of who wrote it.
King David’s son.
As Solomon prays, you can feel his father’s influence on him. David was known for his love for the people, his hatred for oppression, and his compassion for the downtrodden. Solomon inherited all of this.
The Psalm begins as a prayer to the God who appoints kings and then utilizes them to serve people. “May he (the king) judge the people with righteousness” (2), “defend the cause of the poor”, and “crush the oppressor” (4). “May they fear YOU (God) throughout all generations” (5)
“May the righteous flourish and peace abound” (7)
Scholars suggest that at verse 8, Solomon, (perhaps unknowingly), takes a turn towards the prophetic as he describes the kind of lasting impact the greatest king could have on His people. There would be Another, down the blood-line, who would fulfill the prayer Solomon prays. (8-14).
Jesus. The greatest KING.
Solomon goes on to ask God for favor upon his leadership and his kingdom, so that the poor can find justice and the righteous would be rewarded. He also asks that prayers would be lifted up for himself in the process.
And, then he shows us that he understands the limitations of his humanity:
“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things. Blessed be his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with His glory” (18-19) That’s leadership. The boldness to ask God to use mortal men to bring forth wondrous glory within their purview. It’s the kind of prayers we hope our leaders are praying.
It’s the kind of prayers we ought to be praying over the spheres of influence God has granted each and every one of us.
August 14, 2020
At first glance, Psalm 112 looks like a long list of things to do and be in order to walk daily as a believer. As I read through this passage at first, I became discouraged knowing I will never hit this high mark of always doing the right thing or being just the right person for everyone. BUT, the Psalmist begins with “Praise the Lord”, not “YES, I got it right”!!!! In going deeper, this Psalm encourages me to live day by day and live the best that I can in the strength and power of God Almighty, resting in His promises and knowing what I know to be true. I am encouraged and challenged today to ask myself some questions in this particular text. Maybe you feel the same way?
Do I feel daily blessed and stand in awe of God’s amazing power and works in me and those around me?
Do I delight in the things He has written as a guide for daily living?
Am I a daily blessing to my children and grandchildren….do I daily consider how my words and actions will affect them in years ahead?
Do I feel blessed and grateful to have the things that God has given me without desiring the things that others have instead?
Am I looking for the “light” that God provides for me even when things seem dark and overwhelming?
Do I represent grace and compassion for others during dark times?
Do I look for opportunities to be generous with what God has given me? Why do I often hold on tight to my “stuff”?
Do I treat others fairly and operate “above board” even when I think no one is watching?
Realistically for me, the words ”surely he will never be shaken” OR “he will have no fear of bad news” seem a little ludicrous at first glance!!!! BUT, these verses remind me that “my heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord” and “my heart is secure”. These are such good reminders, because they are true!! My trust may come a bit slower than I would like in some situations, but looking back into deep waters from the past show me just how trustworthy God is in all situations and MY HEART IS SECURE!!!! During uncertain times (maybe even today), does it help you to look back at other moments in your life when God showed you compassion, peace, wisdom? These are the moments when God often reveals your steadfast and secure heart! That realization is like hitting the “refresh” button on my soul. It gives me an opportunity to see things from a different perspective.
I have to laugh (and even cheer a little) at the last verse. I am not going to quote it for you so you will have to go read it but it is a great reminder that God WILL punch wicked in the face. Take that bad guys!!!!
One of my favorite teeny verses in the Bible is “She did what she could”…Mark 14:8. I want Jesus to be able to say to me that I took what I had and did what I could with a secure heart full of love for my Savior, yielding to His power through me. She did what HE could.
Women's Ministry & Special Events
August 13, 2020
Earlier this week as I was scrolling Instagram I noticed a quote that kept popping up in many of my friends’ stories. I didn’t think much of it at the time, so I didn’t take a picture or write it down, but in it said something like, “We don’t need to worry about getting the right conditions in place in our country to protect our religion, God has endured since before time, and our faith is not dependent on anything other than Him.” Definitely a paraphrase, but as I read Psalm 135, a verse stood out to me that made me think of it. Verse 13 says, “Your name, O Lord, endures forever, your renown, O Lord, throughout all ages.”
It gives such comfort to know that the Gospel is not dependent on us electing the right president, on choosing the right school for our kids, or on any of the things that feel like they’re shifting and uncertain. All of those things are important but not eternal. God is not like the false gods who fade away (verses 15-18). We serve a God whose name will stand forever, and who will not be overcome or influenced by our changing culture. God stands outside of culture and is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.
I don’t know about you, but I’m the kind of person who can get easily overwhelmed by everything that feels uncertain. Join me today in choosing to trust in the unchanging nature and person of our God. In the moments when you feel the ground shifting under your feet, meditate of Psalm 135:13, and prayerfully thank God that he endures forever, throughout all ages.
Associate College Director
August 12, 2020
I’ve got a complaint! Want to hear it? I didn’t think so. Before I worked at the church, I worked in the restaurant industry. As a manager, I always hated the phrase, “They want to speak to the manager”, because 99.8% of the time it was someone complaining.
I admit that sometimes these complaints were legitimate wrongs that needed to be right. Often though, they were “perceived” wrongs. Most of the time people just wanted to be heard, they wanted their voice to matter, and the only way they knew how was to complain.
Dr. Martin Luther King was quoted saying, “…a riot is the language of the unheard…”. That wasn’t just true then, it isn’t just true now, it’s been true for centuries. Read Psalm 64. Look at the first sentence, “Hear me, my God, as I voice my complaint…”. David had a complaint and he wanted God to hear it.
Now we don’t know exactly which complaint David was trying to voice but it sounds pretty intense. We don’t know if this was a legitimate injustice or a “perceived” wrong. Here’s what we do know from what David writes: David didn’t ask God to let David right the wrongs. David didn’t ask to be judge, jury, and executioner himself.
David recognizes rightly, that God is JUST. Any justice we can uphold is limited in comparison to the type of justice that God can deliver. In verse 9 David says, “all people will fear”. The holy fear of God, it’s a respect of God, knowing that we are separated from our creator and that we’ve done wrong. Luckily for us, fear is not the end point, just the beginning. Jesus counter balances that fear with love. When we recognize that healthy fear, we recognize our need for a savior, Jesus.
Seek God out for true injustice. Be a part of God’s solution here and now. Rest today knowing that Jesus is just, and will ultimately right all wrongs.
August 11, 2020
From his vantage point eight miles away, the young lawyer watched as Fort McHenry was pelted with shells and rockets. The day was rainy, but the smoke and ash caused the sky to go dark well before dusk. Given the size and scope of the attack, he went to bed certain that all was lost. But at “dawn’s early light” as the smoke cleared in front of him, to his amazement “the Star Spangled Banner still waved.” He was so overcome with hope, Francis Scott Key sat down and wrote his now famous poem.
3000 years earlier, David got a jump start on Francis Scott Key. In Psalm 60, David looked around at the world where he lived and led. His world felt God-forsaken (v.1), shaken (v. 2), and desperate (v.3). Maybe those descriptions feel familiar to you today, either about our world in general or about your world in particular. Sometimes it’s easy to lay down your head at the “twilight’s last gleaming” fearing all is lost for tomorrow.
Did you catch verse 4? The banner still waves. No matter what. Not the Star Spangled Banner; an even greater banner representing an even greater King and Kingdom.
David reminds us even as he resolves himself to follow that banner. To pledge his allegiance and anchor his hopes toward God’s salvation (v. 5), God’s commands (v. 6), God’s Lordship (vv. 6-8), and God’s protection (v.9). David begins to walk toward the future (v. 9) with confidence that he is following the One Person who can ensure Life on the other side of the battle he is facing (vv. 10-11).
Where are your hopes anchored today? Which banner are you following? Human help is worthless (v. 11). Nations, even great ones, inevitably rise and fall (v. 6-8). But there is a banner worth trusting and following. When the smoke clears and the dawn breaks, those who followed God’s commands and trusted in His promises will open their eyes to see triumph, victory, and peace. Take a few moments this morning to refocus your hope on the God who is no longer your enemy. Commit to follow Him through today’s battles, regardless of how bleak things may look.
August 10, 2020
“But the Lord has become my fortress,
and my God the rock in whom I take refuge.” (Psalms 94:22 NIV)
When does a person need to take refuge? We don’t hide out during peacetime. We don’t seek shelter when we’re safe. We take refuge when we are in danger or trouble. When things get bigger than we are. When we feel scared or alone. When we are done trying to solve problems on our own.
Isn’t that us right now? We’re surrounded by some really big, scary, ever-changing situations. Where else would we find refuge when we can find it in God? We can find hope, peace, and help in Him. The beginning of this Psalm talks about being surrounded by wickedness, anxiety, corruption, misery, condemnation for the innocent- all terrible, scary, familiar things. Yet, the Psalmist realizes the only reasonable response to all those things is to find our refuge in God. I don’t know what’s surrounding you today; what situations are on your mind, what worries fill your heart, or which circumstances feel overwhelming. I do know God is the place of comfort. In His holy grace and forgiveness is the only true refuge we can turn to.
As you head into today remind yourself of His presence. Take a minute to see His world around you, to remind yourself of His grace. Take deep breaths and consider His presence with you before thinking about the day ahead. And pray His peace over every situation you face, big or small.
Associate Youth Director
August 7, 2020
I love the raw honesty of the Psalms! The beginning of Psalm 77 is not really known as a “coffee cup verse.” It isn’t the kind of verse people post with a beautiful backdrop on Instagram with a cup full of iced vanilla latte! It is obvious that the writer begins this Psalm from a very dark place, and that he has been there for a very long time (v. 5). Statements like “I am so troubled that I can not speak” reflect a serious state of trouble; maybe even a deep depression. The writer is even honest with questions about and for God. He asks if God has forgotten about him, stopped loving him or even stopped being compassionate!
Let’s be honest: some of us are often timid about admitting these thoughts or feelings about God out loud. We tend to be afraid he might cast us out, or that others would simply tell us to “believe more.” But I love how the Psalmist handles his pain and questions. He doesn't hide them. He goes straight to God with them, and says them boldly! Then we see him striving to remember the good things that the Lord has done for him in the past (v.12-15) and actively remembering the power of God (v.16-18). It is through all that we finally get to the “Coffee Cup verse” where we see the writer have some joy.
I can only imagine the pain and questions that some of us are struggling through right now as we walk through such troubling times of job loss, sickness, uncertainty, and death. Most things don’t feel very “Instagram worthy” these days. Allow the Psalmist to encourage you to take your raw honest questions to God (and then to a trusted, godly friend). Strive to remember the ways that He has provided for you in the past, and the power that He has to bring you through this situation as well! Take heart. The Coffee Cup moment may be just around the corner.
Associate Mobilization Director
August 6, 2020
Do you remember seeing fool’s gold for the very first time? I distinctly remember finding some at Dinosaur Valley State Park when I was kid and being so excited that I’d found real gold! Unfortunately, my parents had to burst my excited bubble and bring me back to reality.
David talks about the ‘fool’ in Psalm 53. He talks about the ‘fool’ that says in their heart that there is no God. Sadly, there millions of people around us and around the world that are chasing after fool’s gold. They are staking their life on something other than Jesus.
Now, David is using hyperbole and imagery to make a point. Many of us have been the ‘fool’ who went from death (not believing in Jesus), to life (trusting Him for eternal life). Even though we wouldn’t say “there is no God,” we often live like it’s true. Thankfully, God acts out of compassion and justice. David didn’t know it at the time but that salvation that he speaks of at the end of the Psalm did come. It was Jesus.
God looks at the ‘fool’ with compassion, like a kid who wrongly assumed they had real gold, and He pursues them. Jesus wants you and me to recognize the true value of Who we’ve found and live like it, and then to compassionately encourage others to see fool’s gold for what it is, and receive the gift of true value that He wants to give.
August 5, 2020
Psalm 148 repeats a command over and over again that if I'm honest, I've done a terrible job of obeying for the past few weeks. The Psalmist tells us repetitively to "praise the Lord." In a season of so much disappointment, uncertainty, grief, and worry, it feels unnatural and difficult to praise the Lord, but I think that these exact reasons are why we must! Choosing to praise Him, to recount his faithfulness, to make gratitude lists, to remember simple joys of each day… these small choices slowly add up to a change in perspective. And I don't know about you, but I certainly need a change of perspective right now!
In addition to the repeated command to choose praise, I also love the inclusion of nature in this Psalm. The author starts in the heavens and works his way down through God's creation- the sun & moon, the snow & mist, the mountains & hills, and finally all the people of the earth. I don't know about you, but spending time outside has been one of the most refreshing things I've done throughout this pandemic. If it's a quick run before my daughter wakes up the morning, a Saturday adventure to a local state park, or extended time on the lake with family for over a long weekend, being outside is often exactly what I need. I think part of that is because it's unchanging. Even when the whole world feels like it's falling apart the mountains still stand, the trees still sway in the wind, and the squirrels still hide their acorns. These unchanging, consistent parts of our world point to the Ultimate Constant in our lives....The Lord.
Today, I encourage you to think about what it looks like for you to follow the example of this Psalm. Do you have an hour, or even a couple minutes, of the day where you can spend time outside being reminded of the unchanging and trustworthy nature of our God? As that experience lifts your spirits and changes your perspective, let it lead you to praise and thank Him for who He is and all that He has done for you! Once you start making a gratitude list, I think you'll be surprised how many gifts come to mind to add to it.
Associate Young Adults Director
August 4, 2020
Though I don’t know that I have spent much time in Psalm 141 before, it really spoke to me, right where I am TODAY! Don’t you just love that about God’s Word?
David begins this Psalm by asking the Lord for community with Him. He wants God to hear him and quickly. Like, “RIGHT NOW, God”! David wants his time with God to be sweet and open handed. I have to confess, that is not always my pattern. I do want God to hear me (and right now), but sometimes I just bust out my prayer with a big ask! How different it is when we do lift our hands to Him in surrender right away!
Since I began looking at this Psalm, I have been joining David in asking God to guard my mouth and what I say to others. I have been asking Him, “Am I being divisive?” “Is what I am about to say edifying to my family, the Body of Christ, and our world (especially on social media)?” “Am I using my words to bring honor and glory to my God?”
In Psalm 141, David asks God to guard his heart. Not to let him take part in wicked deeds with others or to have a heart that is drawn to what is evil. I think about how quick I can be to judge others or get on some bandwagon that may be hurtful to folks who see things differently than I do, especially these days. I don’t want to be destructive. God, please guard my heart!
David goes on to ask God to use the righteous men in his life and give them permission to speak into him. That’s tough to do! Over the years, I have gained so much through the wisdom, compassion & discernment from the righteous folks God has in my midst. I want to (and need to) be open to hearing from the Lord through trustworthy people that He has put in my life! David also boldly asks God to manage the evil. I always feel a bit silly asking the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords for the obvious, but it sure feels good to put it in His Mighty Hands, doesn’t it?
I love how David closes this Psalm telling the Lord, that his eyes are fixed on HIM; asking for safety and refuge, having the confidence in the One who is sovereign! Throughout the day today, go to God with open hands and a surrendered heart and ask Him to surround you with wise people, ask Him to guard your heart and help you with your words. It will change your day.
Women's Ministry & Special Events
August 3, 2020
We see throughout the Bible that repetition is important. It’s like when you were a kid and your mom repeatedly yelled your name across the house- if she yelled it just once she was just looking for you. BUT if she repeatedly yelled your name you knew it was serious and urgent (and, let’s be honest, that you were probably in trouble).
Repetition is a sign to pay attention to what is being said. Something important is happening. Throughout Psalms 80 the same phrase is repeated not once; not twice, but three times so we know it’s important to hear.
“Turn us again to yourself, O God.
Make your face shine down upon us.
Only then will we be saved.” (Psalm 80:3, 7, and 19 NLT)
Friends, what simple and powerful words to remember as we head into today. How easy is it to forget that God is the only one who can save us. We surround ourselves with success, money, future plans, other people and so much more- grasping at things to fulfill us or to trust in. But at the end of the day God alone is the only one we can trust in, the only one who can save.
As we head into today pray the Lord will help you turn towards Him again. Pray you would remember that He alone saves, and that you would constantly keep your eyes toward His face over anything else you see in our world today.
Associate Youth Director
July 31, 2020
As I read Psalm 59 a concept that I have been reading about stood out to me. I have been reading through a book called “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality.” In the book, Peter Scazzero, gives the idea of “ the Daily Office.” He explains this to be moments throughout the day that we stop working and connect with God by stopping, re-centering our hearts on Christ, being silent, and remembering/reading/praying Scripture.
This concept and passage really resonate with me right now. Too often I think, “The world is too chaotic. Too much is changing too often. There is too much going on right now to stop working.” I believe the writer of this Psalm was in a similar situation. Yet, throughout this passage we see him stop, re-center his heart and remember who God is. That practice allows him to end the Psalm with a declaration of trust in the Lord.
In verses 1-7 he uses words and phrases like “deliver me from enemies,” “Fierce men stir up strife against me,” “Punish,” and “evil”. This seems like a chaotic time for the writer. But as he stops and re-centers his heart on Truth, he begins to declare that God is his “strength,” his “fortress” and that God will “deliver” him.
Then the Psalm goes back to chaotic words for a couple verses before the writer, stops, re-centers his heart, and remembers again who God is and how powerful He is. At the end of the Psalm he says he will sing praises to God, even in a chaotic and scary time of life where he feels like everything and everyone is against him. Will you join me this week in trying a “Daily Office?” To pick times during the day where we stop, re-center our hearts, be silent, and focus on who God is in the midst of our chaotic day? We might find ourselves on the other side of the week singing.
Associate Mobilization Director
July 30, 2020
As I begin to read this Psalm I can’t help but think about all of the people in the medical field who are risking their lives day in and day out in order to serve the sick. Covid has made it clear that our medical workers need prayers like the one David starts with at the start of this Psalm. We ought to pray constantly that God would protect and bless all those on the front lines who are putting themselves at risk in order to serve others! Pray the Lord would support them and keep them healthy!
What I find interesting is that David starts positively and then negatively examines himself. He speaks of a personal experience in which he was not taking care of the weak around him. He then talks of God restoring him and those just like him.
We may not all be on the front lines risking our own personal safety to care for the sick, but we all still have a part to play in helping the weak around us. Weakness isn’t always a bad thing, it can be just be the reality of a situation. Weak in health, weak in emotional strength, weak in financial security, or even weak in relational support are all areas where people are weak around us.
What if you could be the person to help with that? Maybe God is calling you to a take a risk with your finances by being generous? Maybe God is calling you to take a risk with your time to lend strength to a neighbor or to risk some of your relational energy to help someone that’s feeling down?
Imagine what our world would look like if we all committed to be first responders on the front-lines in the places we’re sent today. Take a moment to pray for medical workers again. Then look around you to see if there’s a place you can step-in with strength toward a different kind of weakness today.
July 29, 2020
The scene is what block-buster movies are made of! David, still a young man, has fled the palace of King Saul. He was once someone Saul loved and counted on to calm him during a crisis. Now, because of Saul’s jealousy, David finds himself hiding in a cave from the great king and his men who are hunting him like a wild animal. You can picture the close-up shot of David ‘s face as he peers out of the cave, watching and listening for those who want to end his life.
If the movie was made from today’s perspective, we would find ourselves in our homes or behind a mask, hiding from the unseen enemy of a virus that seeks to hunt us down and threaten our very lives. Like David, it seems that we have done nothing to warrant being the target of something so dangerous and beyond our control.
We can take a lesson from David in this Psalm. As David hid in the cave, he recognized his need for God’s help. He found his refuge “in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed” (v. 1). David cried out to God and God responds by showing his love and faithfulness in the midst of the darkness of that lonely cave. Along with his cry for mercy, he chooses to praise his God, displaying confidence that God would deliver him in his time of need.
Alone in that cave, David reflects a posture of personal worship, no matter the circumstances. But we also see a heart for neighbors, for those who will read his words in the future: “I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples. For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies.” (v.9-10) David’s confidence that God would show up in his time of need encourages all of us who find ourselves peering out of the cave, staring at our enemy.
Today, spend a few moments praising God for being your God Most High, the one who sends his love and faithfulness in your time of “hard.” Ask him who needs to hear this same word of encouragement today from you. “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.”
July 28, 2020
As I have been processing this season of life, God has drawn me back to Himself through singing time and time again. My heart has been quick to grow weary and my mind has clung to anxious thoughts but day after day God reminds me of His greatness through songs that I hear, or that we sing together. God has reminded me when I shift my perspective from circumstance to what is true, I get His peace that surpasses all understanding. You can clearly see how the writer of this psalm has shifted their perspective from circumstance to truth through praise. Out of the whole psalm, the verse that sticks out to me is “God reigns over the nations; God sits on His holy throne.” What a precious truth amidst so much uncertainty in our world.
This psalm was written ages ago but still remains true. God is near to us even while He continues to rule and reign over us. He is Lord over both Heaven and Earth, not just one or the other. We can breathe a little easier knowing that just as God was sovereign over the nations then, He is certainly sovereign over them now. I encourage you to listen to one of your favorite worship songs after you read this Psalm, ask the Lord to shift your perspective and rest in the truth that He truly has us in His hands. May the truth of that song get stuck in your head and remind you of its Truth over and over today.
Nursery/Special Events Director
July 27, 2020
Psalm 58 isn’t a cuddly, syrupy, comfort Psalm. It doesn’t pair well with morning coffee. Unless you drink your coffee while you read the political section of the newspaper. In that case, it’s perfect. Psalm 58 is a psalm against people with power who are trying to ruin the world. I don’t even have to name them or their political party. You know which ones they are and, obviously, I agree with you (!).
In verse 1 David asks a rhetorical question of rulers in his day. “Do the things you say and the plans you make really reflect what is best for everyone in our world?” Then in verse 2 he answers it, “Of course not.” Then in verses 3-5 he stops to consider why. You detect a note of sympathy in verse 3, “They didn’t have a chance. This is the only way they’ve known since birth.” But David doesn’t lose clarity either. Their words are like poison, their ears are oblivious to wisdom. They won’t be tamed by even the most skillful enchanter. They’re dangerous, deaf, and determined. If they get what they want it will destroy the righteous along with everyone else.
David’s only hope is Divine Intervention, and he asks for it boldly. He asks that God would defang evil leaders so that they can’t destroy the innocent with their mouths (v. 6). He asks that God would let them move down the river quickly and that their plans would fall short of their mark (vv. 7-8). Then David grabs ahold of certain confidence (vv 9-11). He looks beyond the present moment and remembers, whether they’re just emerging on the scene (green thorns) or are seasoned veterans (dry thorns), their ability to create heat is limited and temporary. The end of our world’s story is gladness, victory, reward, and a righteous King who will set things right. We can take heart because He is as near as, perhaps, tomorrow’s newspaper.
Take some time today to pray that God would limit the power of evil leaders all over the world. Don’t be afraid to be clear, bold and specific. But don’t stop there. Remember to end every look at our world political scene with gladness, confidence, and hope. Someday soon, tomorrow’s newspaper is going to be awfully fun to read.
July 24, 2020
Do you remember the first time you did something you knew was wrong but you still got away with it? For me, I remember as a child going into the kitchen to steal candy from my parents ‘secret’ stash. It only took a few weeks for them to notice after there was no more candy from my daily night raids.
Let’s admit it, some of us are still stealing from the figurative candy jar of our Heavenly Father. David realizes this in Psalm 38. When you read Psalm 38, notice that David did something much worse than stealing candy from a ‘secret’ stash. David has messed up. Big time.
David is asking God for MERCY. We talk a lot about GRACE, and we should. We need the unmerited favor that Jesus offers us. We also need mercy for what we have done. Mercy is all about NOT getting the punishment we deserve.
David knows that he has screwed up and he is asking God for mercy. David realizes that the bad things that God has allowed to happen to him pale in comparison to what he actually deserves. I love the way that David ends the Psalm by saying, “Lord, do not forsake me; do not be far from me my God. Come quickly to help me, my Lord and Savior”.
We need the same posture as David. We don’t need to be ashamed of our sin, of our wrongdoings. We’re all in the same boat. Shame is us figuratively pushing Jesus away even though He wants to offer us mercy. Today, admit to God what you’ve done wrong, and ask him to come close to you. Pray that last verse in Psalm 38 and watch how Jesus comes near with a sense of peace and comfort!
July 23, 2020
There’s nothing like being home, isolated, and stressed to reveal the weakest parts of our hearts. Amid all the unrest in our world, our hearts often seek rest in the wrong places. In Psalm 138, David offers a radical response to our idols. He says, “I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart; before the ‘gods’ I will sing your praise.” David is referring to the false gods that surround him culturally, but for us, false gods are all of the things we worship instead of worshipping God.
Have you ever taken the time to name the false gods in your life? Have you ever called them into the light? Most of the time, we sit with our idols and make them our friends. We don’t name them because if we don’t, then maybe they’re not real. Our idols are often the things that make us feel secure when we are scared or worried. We cling to them because we feel like God isn’t there.
David says first, “I will praise you.” He declares the action needed to respond to “gods.” Praising our God, the one true God, is the only response that will fight our idols. David says second, “with all my heart.” Our WHOLE heart has to be placed before God, abandoning all others, and declaring him as Lord. Third, David says, “before the ‘gods’ I will sing your praise.” David declares that he will stand in the face of false gods and sing to his Father.
The most effective way to fight false gods is to worship the one true God. Use this season of your life to learn the weakest places of your heart, and worship God there. Worship him when it feels impossible, when you feel unworthy, and even when you just don’t want to. Worship him, love him, and you will find freedom there.
July 22, 2020
There is no doubt that God holds a special place for Jerusalem which for centuries and even today is central to history and the future. Psalm 87 is most likely a glimpse of Christ’s future reign on earth. A promise to a city God has promised not to forget, however bleak its days may seem. Verses 1-3 describe God’s overwhelming love for that city.
“On the holy mountain stands the city founded by the Lord. He loves the city of Jerusalem more than any other city in Israel. O city of God, what glorious things are said of you!”
Interlude - take time to
reflect on this thought
Verses 4-6 are directed toward the Church - people from every nation who believe and have a personal relationship with Christ - “those who know me (God).” The awe in these verses is that:
Egypt was Israel’s place of bondage.
Babylon oppressed the Israelites.
Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant.
Tyre and Ethiopia were ancient enemies of Israel.
Yet, people from all nations will come to know God. Even former foes of Israel. God has made a way for every human being (Yes, you are one of them) to dwell with Him because of Christ dying in every human being’s place to cover sin. Sin separates us from God. The Lord knows who are His and records those who belong to Him.
“I will count Egypt and Babylon among those who know me— also Philistia and Tyre, and even distant Ethiopia. They have all become citizens of Jerusalem! Regarding Jerusalem it will be said, “Everyone enjoys the rights of citizenship there.” And the Most High will personally bless this city. When the Lord registers the nations, he will say, “They have all become citizens of Jerusalem.”
Interlude - take time to
reflect on this thought
But wait. There’s more.
The people will play flutes and sing, “The source of my life springs from Jerusalem!”
Knowing Christ-having a personal relationship with Him causes Christ-followers (even former enemies) to sing and dance together because He is the source of grace and mercy, of a transformed heart and life.
Do you know Him? Take time to think about this question. Do you know Him?
Look toward the future. Someday God will knock the socks off every believer for eternity in a glorified and resurrected New Jerusalem. Revelation 21 gives a glimpse. I don’t know about you, but I read this passage, revel at it, and yet, cannot totally comprehend it. I wonder... does God take such joy in Jerusalem, His City, because He knows what is coming for those who believe in Him?
July 21, 2020
A few years ago I remember getting kind of obsessive about having night lights spaced out throughout our house. We were in the season of having young kids that often woke up in the night or newborns that needed us to come to them and there was plenty of traffic from one side of the house to the other in the middle of the night when it was dark. Despite the fact that I could tell you how many steps it took for me to get from my bed to their crib/bed there were always obstacles in the way, hence the need for night lights!
Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible. In it, over and over again we see the emphasis upon the value and goodness of God’s Word. Rather than just wanting us to know about God’s Word and its importance, we also see throughout the chapter the ways that God would desire His people to engage or devote themselves to His Word.
In v.105 it says, “Your Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light to my path.” The idea of path here is not just help to make everyday decisions, but v.104 helps us understand the intention is to stay on the path of integrity. In a dark world filled with temptations or distractions sometimes the right or good decision seems unclear. The Psalmist says, the Word of God provides that lamp and light to illuminate the path the Lord wants us to walk. In the midst of all that has taken place over the last several months it can be easy to feel the path is unclear, that the world is too complex or difficult, to get distracted by everything else going on that we forget to devote ourselves to His Word. This week, take some time to spend in His Word, asking that He would use it to illuminate the path He wants you to walk.
Pastor of Equipping
July 20, 2020
I think it’s safe to say, for most of us, the past 3 months have not been easy. We have seen a virus completely change the way we live and interact with others. The future and any return to “normalcy” is unclear as ever. Especially these days, as news began to break of cases rising again, my first thought was “Oh no. Please. This can’t happen again. We were just getting things back!”
The problem is, I like control. Control over my situation and the ability to have an idea about what’s going on. These three months have offered none of that! Nearly every aspect of our lives are completely out of (our) control.
I’m encouraged and reminded by God’s sovereignty in the “Psalms of Ascent,” especially Psalm 123. These were songs that the Israelite people would sing on the road back to Jerusalem where they could worship in person together. Psalm 123 is a prayer for the Lord’s help. The Psalmist begins by exclaiming “To You I lift up my eyes, O You who are enthroned in heavens!” The Psalmist recognizes his inadequacy and lifts his focus to the King of the Universe, the Maker of Heaven and Earth. He then follows by saying “Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, the eyes of a maid to the hand of their mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, until He is gracious to us.”
I love that imagery of expectantly waiting on the Lord, planning to follow Him where he guides us like a servant waiting on their master. A lot of times I get that backwards. I expect God to follow my lead. In every season of life, but especially this one, let us humble ourselves, lift our eyes to the Lord and patiently wait on him to lead us. We can rest assured that God is good and wait with certainty “until He is gracious to us.”
July 17, 2020
In March, my husband and I had the privilege of joining the Doxology college team on a mission trip to Guatemala. I had never been to Guatemala before, so I had high hopes but no idea what to expect.
One morning, we found ourselves hiking up a mountain with supplies and a lot of sweat. At the top, we met a family whose son had been blind since birth. As I sat in their tiny home, and we prayed over this teenage boy, I was overwhelmed. This family never lost hope. They know without a doubt how powerful God is and exactly what he’s capable of.
I walked out of the home to see the most spectacular views I have ever seen in my life. I could almost hear God speaking to me, “I am here. I am with them.” This is the cry of Psalm 8. “Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth” (v.1) I can’t just read that sentence in my head, I have to yell it out! Our Lord has established himself (v.2). He has made himself known to the world, and he speaks to us in creation. He does all of this so we can know exactly who he is, and yet, we doubt him.
During times like these it is easy to doubt and question God’s timeline, and to doubt and question his motivation. Psalm 8 pushes us to ask God a different question, “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? (v.4)”
What a perspective shift! We are constantly wondering why these circumstances don’t end, why treatment doesn’t work quicker, why we have to wear a mask. What if, instead, we could ask, why a powerful, incredible God would choose to care about us at all? Here’s the crazy thing: He DOES care. David invites us to be reminded that God is exactly who he says he is. He has not stopped loving us, and he never will.
When I was sitting in that tiny home on the top of a mountain, I never heard the obvious question, “Why has God allowed me to be blind?” Instead, I heard a boy crying out his belief in a majestic and loving God. He was blind but it was me who needed his help seeing. “Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”
July 16, 2020
You should read Psalm 69 again. All of it. It’s wild, raw, human and holy.
I propose that there is at least one part of the roller-coaster experience of Psalm 69 that is true of your experience today.
David starts with furious desperation. HELP!!! SAVE ME!!! DO YOU SEE ME?!? (vs 1-3)
He meanders towards complaint. MY ENEMIES ARE LAUGHING AT ME!! (vs 4-5)
Then, bargaining. IT’S BAD FOR OTHERS IF I AM CONSIDERED A FAILURE!! (vs. 6-12)
He works his way towards humility. I BELIEVE YOU KNOW BEST, AND I TRUST YOU (13-18)
This leads him to confession. I HAVE DONE WRONG AND THE CONSEQUENCES HAVE BEEN PAINFUL. (19-21)
Remembering the consequences, he leans into bitterness and fury. SMITE THEM!! (22-28)
But, what’s most astounding about David is his innate instinct to look up and away from the muck and the mire. Something about his countenance propelled him towards FAITH and WORSHIP. (vs 30-36)
There is considerable context surrounding this Psalm. What David had done, how the story had spread, how he felt about himself, and how honest he would be with God. These were HEAVY variables weighing on him at this moment in his life.
What’s weighing on you?
I know I am personally worn out from this Corona season. 2020, so far, has been an emotionally exhausting experience. I’ve prayed every day since the quarantining started that it would end. Some days I find myself desperate. Some days, hopeful. Other days, discouraged. Some days, energetic. Other days, apoplectic.
David models for us the kind of honest relationship available to us in God. He welcomes it all… Desperation, Complaints, Bargaining, Humility, Confession, Anger, and of course, Worship.
Let David’s honesty with God be your guide.
Choose to fight to turn the corner.
July 15, 2020
I love superhero movies. I especially love the Avengers movies. I loved Avengers Infinity War and Endgame because of the way that all of these superheroes worked together against unsurmountable odds. By the end of Avengers Endgame, you can’t help standing up to cheer as all of the heroes unite to stop evil.
Movies like the Avengers remind me of God. As I read Psalm 35, I see a distraught David. David has had a real rough go of it lately and is asking God for help. He talks about the evil around him and he asks for God to have his back. When I read verses 1-3, I picture those epic action movies with heroes back to back fighting back against evil. Paul said in Romans 8:31 “…if God is for us, who can be against us?”.
This Psalm reminds me that God is always in our corner, He is there and ready to fight for us. We need to ask God to fight for us, and for others; just like David is asking. Yet, there’s one thing we need to remember; God is always in our corner but He’s not always in the ring with us. In professional fights, you have your fighter in the ring, but you also have your coaches and cut man. The coach gives you directions, tells you what to change, and gives you encouragement. The cut man is there to help patch you up if you’re hurt, to help stop the bleeding, and get you back in the ring.
We need to always be reminded that God is fighting along with us. It just won’t always look the way that we want it to look. Sometimes he’ll be in the ring fighting alongside with us. Sometimes he’ll be the coach in the corner; giving us advice. Sometimes he’ll be the cut man; patching us back up and helping us on our feet.
We see at the end of the Psalm that even after David asks all of this of God that “My tongue will proclaim your righteousness, your praises all day long”. That’s the kind of attitude we need. No matter what happens, God has my back, and I’m going to keep speaking His praises!
July 14, 2020
Never before have I lived in such a season of ambiguity and tension. My best-laid plans are being laughed at by an inanimate microscopic particle! The news is filled with words like "surging" and "dire" and "unprecedented". Plus, everyone is mad at everyone. Everyone knows what to do but apparently everyone is also wrong (sarcasm definitely intended). All of this has left me with a low-grade fever of anxiety. I've been wondering, how do I refill my soul in anxious times such as these?
Psalm 117 is the shortest psalm in the book of Psalms. Just 2 verses but that is all that is needed to deliver a perfectly portioned dose of medication to calm my anxiety sickness. Verse 2 describes two attributes of God: His love and His faithfulness. He is 100% loyal, reliable, and trustworthy. At the same time, this loyal and trustworthy God has directed His loyal love toward us. There is not a more powerful combination. If this all-powerful creator God loves me, meaning that He will always seek my best, and He is completely reliable and will never fail. Truly, what is there to fear?
Spend some time this morning listing the specific things causing your anxiety sickness symptoms. Next to them, write the treatment this Psalm prescribes. Thank God for the courage to take on today.
July 13, 2020
Psalm 54 reads like an episode of “Rescue 911.” (For the back story read 1 Samuel 23). David’s 911 call begins in verses 1-2. I find David’s request amazing. He asks God to rescue him “by your name,” and to exonerate him “by your might.” Doesn’t that seem backward? Shouldn’t David want God’s power to bring his rescue, and God’s name (character, attributes) to lend credibility to David’s case? Yet David appeals to God’s character to find him, know him and rescue him. Essentially he’s saying “God, you’re a Rescuer. This is who you are. That’s why I called you and not the fire department for this.” When David appeals to God’s power for vindication, he’s declaring which tools God will need for the rescue.
In verse 4-5, David comforts himself while he waits for his Rescue to be complete. In verse 6, he makes plans for what he will do once his rescue is complete. In verse 7 we read about the reunion on the other side of the rescue.
If you were to make a 911 call to heaven today, who (specifically) would you ask heaven to dispatch? What tools will He need to bring to bear for your rescue? Tell Him. Then, while you wait, comfort yourself by rehearsing who He is. The Lord of heaven is an exceptional Rescuer and an ever-present help. Plan now for how you’ll respond on the other side of the rescue and what you want to remember about this moment when you tell the story for a reunion episode at some point in the future.
July 10, 2020
When our children were small we had a chat about using “bad words”. Emily, my rule keeper, asked, “Does using bad words make God mad?” “ I think it makes Him sad.“ I responded. Then Lucy, age 4, piped up, “But it makes our mom mad!”
What are the things that make God mad and glad? Psalm 15 reveals a few of them.
Who may dwell in your sacred tent?
The one whose walk is blameless and does what is righteous.
The one who speaks truth from their heart (vs. 2)
The one whose tongue utters no slander, does no wrong to a neighbor and casts no slur on others (vs. 3)
The one who despises a vile person but honors those who fear the LORD.
The one who keeps an oath even when it hurts and does not change their mind (vs. 4)
The one who lends money to the poor without interest and does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
Whoever does these things will never be shaken. (vs. 5)
Just as a 4 year old knows there are attitudes and actions that make her parents happy, I always want to make my Father “glad” by having a heart that lines up with His heart. Because of the sacrifice of Jesus, I'm already completely accepted by Him. I can't be any more secure in my position as His child, but by loving the things He loves and hating the things he hates, I demonstrate that I'm growing in His likeness. Every day that I read his word and take it to heart I gain His perspective. What is Psalm 15 revealing to you about God's heart toward the world and His perspective? Is there any attitude or action He's asking you to change?
Executive Team Admin
July 9, 2020
Psalm 88 is a Psalm that is written in deep, unresolved sorrow. The author of this Psalm knew what it was like to feel stuck in the dark. He feels afraid and anxious in verse 3, lonely in verse 8, unheard in verses 9-12, as if his friends have left him alone in his suffering - like darkness is his closest friend (verse 18).
Although he felt this way, he began the Psalm reminding himself who his salvation was in. In verse 1, he says “Lord, you are the God who saves me.” I have found myself repeating this truth over and over recently. But sometimes it takes a while for head knowledge to make its way to the heart. The Psalmist models that even then – especially then – we can rest in the Lord knowing it is ok to be in the pit.
This Psalm comforts me. It reminds me that I am human, this world is broken, and I will feel in despair from time to time because our world has not fully been restored by the Redeemer. That day is coming, but until then, we must be faithful to remind ourselves, even in the pit of despair, that the Lord is the God who saves. If you’re not in the pit today, take some time to tell God thanks for the ways He has blessed you. If you are in the pit today, know that you’re not alone. Pray that the Lord would remind you of his faithfulness and bring you authentic joy and peace even while you wait out the darkness.
July 8, 2020
Do you want to live a bold courageous life? A life that makes a difference in the lives of others? A life that gives glory to God and furthers His kingdom? In Psalm 26, David gives us a starting point on the journey towards that kind of life.
At the beginning of Psalm 26 David cries out to God because he believes he has done everything right. David’s not saying that he’s perfect, he is in a situation where his integrity and character are being questioned. We see in verses 4 and 5 where David stayed away from wrongdoing in his life. Even though David doesn’t believe he’s done fault, he still acknowledges his own limitations.
David understood that the heart is deceitful, and that we, as humans, have a tendency to gloss over our shortcomings. David has a backup plan. Look at verse 2 and 3. He asks God to test him and try him. He wants God to shine a light into his heart and mind to help him see where he has done wrong.
Now that’s a bold prayer! David is asking God, “SHOW ME WHERE I HAVE SCREWED UP!”. It’s easier for us to pray the type of prayers where we ask God to use us to do good things. Doing good for other people is often so much easier than admitting we were wrong, that we messed something up, or highlighting the depth of our sin.
For me, this is the difference between brushing my teeth and going to the dentist. Brushing my teeth is good, but it’s easy and low risk. If I go to the dentist, I may find out that I have cavities, they may root around in my teeth with sharp tools, and someone else will notice how badly I actually brush my teeth.
Be bold and courageous by praying a prayer that asks God to test you in order to root out all of that sin. Maybe your prayer today is less about how to do good to that neighbor, and instead asking God to help you see any unconscious wrong bias of that neighbor. Maybe your prayer today is less about helping you to do something good and loving for your spouse, and instead asking God to show you where you’ve wronged that spouse and ask for that forgiveness.
July 7, 2020
Psalm 144 humbles me every time I read it. Take a minute to read verses 3-4. "O Lord, what is man that you regard him, or the son of man that you think of him? Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow." Oof! It took the Psalmist two sentences to put me in place and remind me vividly that my life is a small pretty insignificant blip in the timeline of the world. God is God and I'm a blip.
Honestly, in all the sickness, conflict, and tensions going on in our country and world today, it doesn't seem immediately relevant to think of “humility” as a solution. Instead my first inclination is to tell you that I need God to show me that He is a God of peace or justice or healing. God is all of those things, and we see that throughout the scriptures. But I love this Psalm because it reminds me that first and foremost, we need God to be God!! We need Him to be big, in control, powerful, and greater than us. Take a couple minutes to read verses 5-8 of this Psalm if you haven't already. The God described there is certainly mighty and powerful!!
Once we know that He is those things and that we are not, we also need to remember that He is good, trustworthy, and faithful. The power and might that verses 5-8 speak of? That power enables the goodness. When we remember all of these things, then we begin to rest because we know that He ultimately will bring justice, that heaven is a place of certain peace, and that sickness and broken bodies no place in our eternal home. So today, when you are confronted with injustice, sickness, or another aspect of our broken world, I encourage you to pray verse 2 of this Psalm back to the Lord. Remember that you are a blip, that God is God, and rest in His steadfast love and His refuge.
Associate Young Adults Director
July 6, 2020
Recently I have been reflecting a lot on the idea of joy or, more specifically, reflecting on my lack of joy. The Bible uses language often to describe the joy of those who know God. Knowing God produced this overflowing, abundant, authentic joy. I've really wrestled with this recently. If I’m following Jesus, why does finding joy seem to be such a struggle for me? To be clear, there are many reasons for a lack of joy and I don't want to be insensitive to any of them, but Psalm 100 provided me some answers about the source of my own joy.
Psalm 100 is filled with language of overflowing, abundant, authentic joy. Notice the pattern of the Psalm. Verses 1 and 2, as well as verse 4, talk about joyful actions and feelings. Verses 3 and 5 talk about Truth to know about God. It is as if the foundation for the joyful feelings are learning the truths about God. I’m discovering that my lack of joy in God stemmed from a deficiency of God's Truth in my life. It wasn't invading my life, it was simply marginally present.
I want Truth to invade my life. Psalm 1 talks about the joy-filled man being the one who delights, meditates on, absorbs the Word of God in as many ways and as often as possible. In my search for joy I've decided to meditate on Psalm 16. For me, that looks like memorizing a verse at a time, every time I drive in the car, over the course of weeks. Letting the truth about God sink deep into my soul so that the truth about God becomes a fountain of joy in my life. How will you fight for joy today?
July 3, 2020
This Psalm shows a contrast between the man who trusts in himself and the man who trusts in the Lord.
Verse 7 really shows the fruit of trusting in oneself. When we refuse to make God our refuge, we sow destruction upon ourselves. When we rely on our own riches and own hands, in the end we only find destruction because we have:
The first 3 verses describe what evil men do and then the last 6 show the result of their wrongdoing and the contrast between what they should expect and where the righteous find hope. The righteous find hope because they fear the Lord.
Fearing God doesn't mean that we are afraid of Him. But instead, it shows us that we should revere God as who he is. He is just, holy, and good. When he gives us a command, we can trust that it is for our good to listen and obey him. We can trust in his love for us. We can trust in his provision over us because of what he has done. He has sent Jesus to pay for our sins so that we can be free from guilt and shame forever and ever and enjoy an eternity of joy in his presence. Why would we choose to live any other way?
July 1, 2020
It’s all just a matter of perspective, isn’t it? To the young mom of toddlers whose husband works late, forever is a really long time of being alone. For a bride waiting for her wedding day, the wait can seem like forever. For the man sitting by his phone waiting for test results of a life-changing diagnosis, the word forever feels like a very heavy weight. The word can bring happy thoughts to our mind and heart, or signal a sadness that has no end in sight.
We are living in a time where it seems forever has become a common theme. Will this virus last forever? Will I have to juggle work and homeschooling forever? Will I have to stay away from friends and family forever? The word, now overused, has become one that has a deep sigh at the end of it.
But what if we changed our perspective? What if we looked at the word from a new angle? In Psalm 48, David paints a picture of Zion whom God has delivered from her enemies. Jerusalem is secure and glorious because God has blessed it with His favor. As he stands near God’s house, David reflects on God’s love and righteousness. Verse 14 says, “This God is our God forever and ever. He will guide us from now on.” His earlier sadness turns to praise for a God who promises to be our God forever. This promise now becomes a time of celebration.
Living with the perspective that our God is forever changes everything. We have a God whose promise of salvation fortifies us for anything that we face, knowing it is temporary. How could you change your perspective to live today like you serve a God who is forever?
June 30, 2020
I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but early on in my years of being a pastor I found myself feeling inadequate for the role God had me in. My sense of excitement turned to insecurity. Thoughts flooded my mind like, “If people knew the sin I struggle with, the things I’m not good at, or questions I don’t know the answer to, they wouldn’t think I’m qualified either.”
During this pandemic, I imagine you may have some of the same thoughts. There is nothing like pressure to reveal the cracks that lie below the surface of our lives. In this season, for some, past sin struggles have resurfaced. For others, uncertainty about the future and the number of unanswered questions has felt paralyzing. Then comes the question: “Even if we knew what God wanted us to do, would we be qualified to do it?”
I’m so glad that God has something to say about people who don’t feel like they are the right fit for the situation they find themselves. Psalm 118:22 says, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” The cornerstone was the most essential stone in the building process. Builders would discard many stones because they did not fit the needed space. The writer felt like one of these inadequate, discarded stones, that just isn’t fit for the job. God had His eye on a discarded person, and didn’t just restore him to a position of usefulness but to one of prominence. In verse 23, we see that only God could do this marvelous work.
In Acts 4, Peter related this Psalm to Jesus. In Psalm 118, the Psalmist related it to himself. The point is: this is what God does. So Parent, Neighbor, Leader, Friend, Husband, Wife: the next time you feel inadequate or unsure about your ability to do what God has called you to do, remember that God restores the discarded stones of the world to play positions of prominence in building His kingdom. Ask God where you need to tune out the excuses and tune in His voice. Then trust that in God’s hands you are the perfect fit for role He has called you to play.
July 2, 2020
“What are you thinking!?”
I think that we have all asked that question at some point. Reading Psalm 14, you can tell that the author, David, has had it up to “here” with people around him. It’s easy to feel that way sometimes, and it is understandable when we get into that headspace.
The problem is when we STAY in that place. Even David, at the end of the Psalm finishes on a positive note. Here’s how I believe we can get out of the space, that space where we think the world around us is falling apart.
Look back at the way that David describes the people around him: “fools…corrupt…vile…evildoers”. Can we be honest with ourselves for a second? Have we not been guilty of some of these things too? I’ve done foolish things. I’ve done bad, selfish, destructive things. We all have. They may not all have the same consequences, they may not all affect other people the same, but evil is evil in the sight of a perfect God.
David knew something better was on the horizon in verse 7. He was right. Jesus was that saving grace. Through Jesus we can be forgiven. Through Jesus we can see the reality of our sin and see the true offer of forgiveness, grace, and mercy. Jesus even had an interaction in John 8:7 where he said, “Let any one of you who is without sin throw the first stone…”.
Before we go out condemning the world around us, we need to first realize the depth of our sin, then see the incredible way that Jesus paid the cost for that sin and offers us forgiveness. That will put us out of a bad headspace into a posture of humility, and that’s how we’ll be able to reach the broken world around us with the good news of Jesus Christ!
June 29, 2020
A couple of times over the last few months we’ve done a scavenger hunt with our kids. They love the pursuit and search for the next clue and the anticipation of finding the final item.
It seems everywhere I turn I see our world on a quest for unity. Both in big and small ways our world is searching for it. Watch the news and we find people crying out for unity. Talk to a parent and you hear a small scale longing for it, as they hope their kids will get along.
In Psalm 133 David reflects upon the goodness of God’s people dwelling in unity together. Verse 1 begins by describing how desirable it is when the people of God live in harmony with each other. Some may ask, “What does unity look like?” In the New Testament we see commands, “so far as it depends on you, live at peace with all people, or “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” The idea is that we would fight for peace by regarding the interest of others as more important than our own.
In v.2-3 David provides two images to describe the blessings that come from unity. Both the image of the priest being anointed and the mountain and the dew are communicating the same thing. It’s as if David is answering the question, “Why live like that?” Both of these images describe the abundant results of living in unity with others. One of the reasons we seek unity with others is because unity always blesses more than just the participants.
Who are the people in your life that God may be calling you to exalt their needs and pursue unity? Perhaps in this season the Lord may be prompting you to more diligently seek to serve your spouse or another family member in your home? Maybe it’s a co-worker or friend. Unity is a sweet gift from God that our world is desperately seeking. How could you be a source of providing it today both in large and small ways?
Pastor of Equipping
June 26, 2020
I like winning arguments. Maybe I’m alone in that sentiment, but I bet that many of us enjoy winning an argument, discussion, or debate. We like having the right answers, or at least being perceived like we have the right answers. If you’ve spent even a few seconds on social media over the course of your life, you’ll see that it’s filled with people trying to win arguments, prove points, and “humble brag” about something they did. This isn’t a new phenomenon. In fact, it’s a tale as old as time.
Looking at Psalm 12, we see that David, the author, has experienced this same thing. He knows that people use their words to try and flatter, to persuade, and to brag. We do this because we want the focus to be on us, and whether we care to admit it or not, we are selfish. That is sin rooting around inside of us.
David is tired of all these words getting used, getting thrown around, that are ultimately pointless; not doing anybody any good. David then shows us what the reverse looks like. He talks in vv 5-8 about how the needy and oppressed are crying out and the Lord lifts them up. God lifts up those in need and comes to their aid.
Here’s my question for us today: do we hear those same voices that the Lord hears? Are we listening for the voices of those that are in need, those that have been oppressed? Or are we concerned only with what we have to say?
My hope (and I think this was David’s hope), is that we would spend less time talking and more time listening for those who are in need and moving into action to be the hands, feet, and heart of Jesus.
June 25, 2020
The beginning of Psalm 78 is such a great reminder that we need to be sharing stories from our past; the things that our parents and grandparents taught us. We need to share stories that reflect God’s goodness and His ways; things that God is teaching us personally. We will tell the next generation, who in turn will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, His powers and the wonders He has done. I don’t know about you, but why would I not tell my children and grandchildren about my daily walk with the Lord? What’s holding me back from telling them about the things He has done in my life? The places that I have experienced Him in joy and in sorrow and the things that I’ve learned from both? This Psalm convicts me to share not just big picture, vague things, but step by step stories. How I learned specific lessons and what God used to teach me!
I have been teaching my granddaughter how to drive over the last few months. One day, I was telling her how to do something in great detaiI. I thought to myself, “Why do I not teach her with this much detail & instruction when it comes to the things of the Lord?” Of course we talk about Jesus (A lot, actually), but this was detailed instruction. Turn by turn. What to watch out for, how to always be looking in front of you and behind you and to the side. I remind her to be careful who she has in her car and who she rides with. Those people will affect her ability to focus. Each and every thing I said about driving had a spiritual equivalent and I was so convicted!
We as parents and grandparents have a responsibility and a calling to take our children and grandchildren through a SPIRITUAL ED course that includes stories of God’s ways from long ago and the present day. Stories that will carry from generation to generation. Let’s commit together to pulling out our SPIRITUAL ED manual each and every day, giving them “turn by turn” instruction and constantly using our everyday situations and circumstances to teach them, to praise God, to show them His power and ultimately move them toward a lasting, deep relationship with Jesus Christ!
Women's Ministry & Special Events
June 24, 2020
Psalm 92 is meant to be sung on the Sabbath – a day of rest. What better way to start a song than by praising the Lord.
“It is good to praise the Lord.
God Most High, it is good to praise your name.
It is good to sing about your love in the morning and about your faithfulness at night.” Psalms 92:1-2 (ERV)
It certainly is fitting to praise God and sing about His love and faithfulness. Furthermore, using the harp and dulcimer joyously proclaims the works He has done and our inability to understand the mind of God. (v.3-4). He truly is worthy of a song.
The verses that follow provide a stark contrast between the unrighteous and Christ followers. (v. 6,7,9) The unrighteous don’t comprehend what God has done and continues to do. They are likened to grass that quickly withers - think Texas in August. But God (the two greatest words in the Bible), gives strength and His blessing to those who follow Him (v. 10).
Because of being transformed, the righteous can flourish and bear fruit. Those in right standing with God are like a statuesque date-palm or a stately cedar of Lebanon. One withstands drought, the other storms and frost on summit heights. Date-palm trees represent fruitfulness even in old age. At full size they produce 300-600 pounds of their very best dates each season. And, that happens after 30-40 up to 100 years of age! Lebanon cedars grow 120 feet high with a 30 foot circumference- upright, strong, enduring, green all year.
“But the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon. For they are transplanted to the Lord’s own house. They flourish in the courts of our God. Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green. They will declare, “The Lord is just! He is my rock! There is no evil in him!”
Psalms 92:12-15 (NLT)
Flourish. Declare that God is just. Show that God is good. Praise God all the days of your life for his constant love and faithfulness. Sing your song today.
June 23, 2020
One of the things I love about many of our church gatherings is when we take a moment to celebrate what God is doing in us and around us. We call them "vision stories." If you've been to any of our all-church prayer Zoom meetings, or if you're a leader and have attended a Huddle, chances are you have heard a vision story or two or have shared one of your own. Maybe you've heard them around the church or in your Community Group. Vision stories come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes it's seeing someone take a next step toward Baptism. Sometimes it's seeing someone in your Community Group raise their hand for the first time to close in prayer. Whether you put a title to it or not, there is no doubt that God is moving and doing great things in us and around us.
Psalm 111 is a great reminder the great things God has done and is continuing to do. The first few verses (v1-2) remind us as Christians, not to neglect what God is doing or let it slip by without taking the time to celebrate. We need to tell others of the good that He is doing and we should stop and reflect on it because His work reveals His glory and majesty (v3). God is a God who is big enough and near enough to feed the hungry and keep His promises (v5), show power and favor (v6), remain trustworthy (v7), true (v8) and pay the ransom for people like us (v9).
What's a "vision story" that you have seen lately? Take a moment to reflect on it. Take note of it, thank Him for it, and find a time to share it with someone around you.
June 22, 2020
Psalm 126 was probably written by the Israelites when they were released from Babylonian captivity. Their release was unexpected, a surprise, which led to the words that this Psalm starts with..."we were like those in a dream." It seemed too good to be true! The first half of the psalm is dedicated to praising the Lord as His people revel in His blessings to them. Yes, He blessed them by bringing them out of captivity, but He also blessed them by the work He did in their hearts during captivity. In 1 Peter 1:7, the apostle Peter talks about a faith that is refined and tested by fire. I can only imagine that this is the sentiment of the Israelites as they look back on years of captivity. God had been refining and perfecting their faith in His abilities and goodness. And now they are released! What a thing to praise God for.
Even in light of all the praise, the Psalm ends with a request. Although they have been freed, there is still much to do. They are now in their own land and there are new problems to deal with. New surroundings to navigate. In light of this, they ask for God to provide for them and to "restore their fortunes".
I hope that as I've written about the history of this Psalm, you've found yourself somewhere in its words. Perhaps, you still feel that you are in a kind of "captivity" and are praying and trusting God for release. My encouragement for you is that God works in these times to refine and perfect our faith. My hope for you is that one day you will be able to look back on His deliverance from this current circumstance as well as how God used this difficulty and say like they could in verse 3, "The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad."
Perhaps your story is different and you have been delivered from difficulty recently. Maybe sickness has passed, the intense limitations of social distancing have loosened and you have begun to see loved ones again, or something else entirely. May this Psalm remind you to praise the One who ultimately provided this deliverance and hope! Don’t forget to be grateful!
Finally, I think that all of us probably find ourselves in the second half of this Psalm....whether praising God for deliverance or hanging onto hope in captivity, may we all keep asking Him to continue to work in us and around us, and to give us the strength we need to trust Him in the process.
Associate Young Adults Director
June 19, 2020
A few days ago one of my boys came to me and said, “Dad, I’ve got some good news and bad news.” It’s something every parent loves to hear! Throughout Scripture we see God reminding His people of both the bad news of our sin and the good news that a Rescuer has come! Psalm 24 looks at both. Psalm 24 is a call to worship that the ancient Jews would recite weekly as it invited them into a life of praise.
V.1-2 provide a declaration of God’s might as the Creator and Owner of all that exists. In response to this truth, v.3-6 focus on the one who would worship a God so infinitely powerful. David asks the question, “Who may stand in His Holy Place?” In v.4 we see the response, those with clean hands (actions) and a pure heart (thoughts). God isn’t concerned with our appearance, He’s concerned with our heart (1 Sam. 16:7) and our deeds (Micah 6:8). As I read clean hands and a pure heart being the requirement to dwell with the Lord I’m reminded I fail the test. Constant failures and brokenness in my own heart is the bad news. On my own I don’t possess what it would take to be with God.
V.7 introduces the good news as we see the entrance of the King of Glory. Who is He? The Lord, the one strong and mighty to save. David may not have known it, but this image of a King who was coming in strength and glory could only be fulfilled in the person of Jesus, the Rescuer King.
This week, remember to give thanks that the Creator of the Universe longs for you to dwell with Him! And your inability to keep your hands clean or heart pure can’t keep that from happening. Not because of something you’ve done, but because the King of Glory has come for you!
Pastor of Equipping
June 18, 2020
It fascinates me how aware David was of the people around him. I can’t imagine the self-torture he’d have endured in the age of social media. He had what my dad calls “rabbit ears”. He seemed to hear every stray word or phrase spoken in contradiction to his belief system… and it all got to him.
Notice, though, how it wasn’t just the people who stood in contradiction to him that he was paying attention to. In this Psalm, there are 4 categories of people that David’s got his ears attuned to: The Wicked (vs 2-9), The helpless (vs.10 & 14), The afflicted (17), and The fatherless (14 & 18).
It’d be one thing if every Psalm of David was a laundry list of how evil people seem to be prevailing while he himself felt like he was losing. Instead, we see David taking up the charge for what the New Testament would later call “the least of these.” He sees wicked people taking advantage of the helpless, the afflicted and the fatherless, and He brings a passionate prayer to God…
“Arise O Lord; O God, lift up your hand; forget not the afflicted.” (12)
When I read this, I am convicted about my prayer life. I am convicted that I’m not more of an advocate for the down-trodden of my day. Maybe I should use David’s “rabbit ears” for good. Maybe I should pay more attention to those who have trouble advocating for themselves.
Maybe it’s not about the wicked. Maybe it’s not about me.
Maybe I was put here, at this time in my life, RIGHT NOW, to speak up for helpless, the afflicted and the fatherless.
In the moment we find ourselves in in America, I can’t think of a better use of my time.
June 17, 2020
When I was a child, there was a meal-time prayer that was commonly repeated in my house, and perhaps in yours, too. “God is great. God is good. Let us thank Him for our food....” It was awfully simple, and honestly, it was often rushed. And it was easily corrupted when we were a little too eager to get to the meal... “God is good. God is great. Thank Him for the food we ate!” So we could easily discount it as a childish prayer, but there is actually an awful lot of good theology in there. In fact the psalmist David, built Psalm 145 around those simple ideas.
“Great is the LORD,” David proclaims, “and most worthy of praise” (v3a). And lest we think that this is just shallow praise, David reminds us that we can never reach the depths of this idea-- "his greatness no one can fathom" (v3b). You don't need to fully comprehend it, but it is important to know that it is deeper than you'll ever need to know. No matter what darkness or evil surrounds us, our God is greater.
"The LORD is good," David continues (v9a). He is talking about God's moral righteousness, and thankfully also his grace, compassion, and love (v7-8). And David wants to be sure that we know that this goodness extends to everyone and everything -- "he has compassion on all he has made" (v9b). No matter what darkness or evil we find within us, our God is “good to all” (v9).
Take a few minutes and read and reflect on Psalm 145. In the last month, where have you experienced God's greatness and his goodness? And don’t keep it to yourself. David reminds us that the whole world needs to hear that our God is great and good! “My mouth will speak in praise of the LORD. Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever” (v21).
Pastor of Mobilization
June 16, 2020
My mom is 92 years of age. Some years ago she documented her family history and presented it to each of her children. Now it is part of my history to pass down. What struck me was God’s faithfulness through the generations- hard times, joyful times, and “in” times. Likewise, Psalm 114 passes down history. It is Hebrew poetry, a song, sung generation by generation right before celebrating Passover. The nation of Israel was reminded of their deliverance from Egypt through God’s saving grace (v. 1-2), and of God’s protection (v. 3-6). It reminded them that Mount Sinai quaked at God’s presence and like the Red Sea, the Jordan River was rolled back for Joshua to lead the Israelites across. Finally, verses 7-8 celebrate the Lord and God’s complete power and authority- “Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord....” Awe and reverence belong to God.
Just as the Israelites remembered, reflect on your story. How have you seen God working? Are you trusting Him? Do you see His faithfulness? Sing a song, thank Him, and revel in who God is.
June 15, 2020
In Psalm 73, David is having a huge faith crisis! There is evil going on all around him and it is all that he can see. He is sunk deep into focusing on all of the turmoil around him and feels helpless and forgotten. He can only see injustice and violence, feeling like God is just letting it happen. Does this sound familiar? Some days it’s just flat difficult to see God in all of this.
Verse 17 is where David finds clarity. It is a true pivotal moment for him! “till I entered the sanctuary of God…” In this moment, David recognizes that he cannot possibly understand the ways of God. He realizes that he must enter the sanctuary of God….he must leave the evil surrounding him in God’s mighty hands. Like David, I long to understand God’s ways, but in my moments of clarity I have to face the fact that some things I am just not supposed to understand!
Once David refocuses, he humbles himself recognizing his own grief, bitterness and ignorance and has a heart of repentance; longing for more of God! This humility strengthens his relationship with God even in the midst of not understanding the circumstances around him or their outcome. David comes to the beautiful place. A place we all want to be. In verse 23 beginning with “YET”! He realizes that in the midst of the struggle and the uncertainty, God is with him and holds him by the hand. He sees how God counsels him. He has been promised and remembers that God is enough for today and forever. He is David’s ONLY FOREVER THING!
This time of wrestling in pain and doubt brings David to such a deep, solid place with God that he can’t wait to tell others! God’s nearness to him, his safe place of refuge is something he wants to share with others, knowing that God will ultimately bring peace and justice forever and ever! Are you in the midst of faith crisis? Are you longing to understand what’s happening all around you and where God is in all of it?
Enter into the presence of God and Go and Be Doxology to the world around you!
Women's Ministry & Special Events
June 12, 2020
As a young girl I remember being outside working on our dairy farm with my mother and asking, “Mom, how can God have no beginning and no end?” My recollection is that she was taken aback by such a question out of the blue; but, she also decided it was time for me to have my own Bible. Recalling my past resonated with Psalm 93. This is one of the Royal Psalms used as part of Israel’s worship. And, it is worthy of our worship of God too.
Verses 1-2 tell me God is King. He’s always been King. How comforting. How assuring that this is where my faith rests. There never was a time where God did not reign. His majesty and strength are so much a part of Him that it is as though they are His signature clothes. Because He is at the ready, the world is established and secure. Revel in these verses:
“The LORD is King. The LORD wears majesty and strength like clothes. He is ready so that the whole world is safe. It cannot be shaken. Your kingdom has continued forever. You have lived forever!” (ERV)
Next, God exercises authority over all. All really means all. In verses 3-4 the ocean is used as an example. No matter how loud it roars or its sound thunders...even the most powerful storm...God is more powerful. He controls the churning waves of chaos. God’s creation reminds us of his great power. He spoke it into being.
Finally, verse 5 assures us of the immutable truth of God’s Word:
“God’s royal laws cannot be changed. Your reign, O LORD, is holy forever and ever.” (NLT) Because His Word is truth and He reigns, all my praise is due Him.
The LORD is...
He is trustworthy and more. Resting in God who has no beginning and no end is the perfect place to be.
June 11, 2020
These past few months have been a reminder that we have so little control in life. Many of us can be lulled into believing we have control of our life, direction, and plans. We believe the lie that our strengths or wisdom can be leveraged to accomplish what we plan. That idea of control we can pursue and do so at the detriment of walking in trust and faith in the Lord.
Psalm 127 is a wisdom psalm written by Solomon to address this problem. He encourages his audience to live more God-centered, trusting in Him for all things. Solomon identifies three areas that are universal for us to seek to control on our own; building, security, and raising a family.
In v.1 Solomon starts by looking at building and security. The idea of building one’s home was a normal responsibility, something each family would do for itself. For us, this could mean what we produce or provide for ourselves or our family. Then Solomon mentions the idea of security, something that within that world would have been a daily priority with enemies all around them. Security is still something we prioritize today, but something we may often take for granted with locks and home security systems. Solomon includes both with the warning, “unless the Lord” does it, the result is vanity or meaningless. In v.3-4 Solomon turns to the idea of the family, reminding his leaders that even when it comes to raising the next generation, it is a gift from the Lord’s hand. These most essential tasks of building, securing, and establishing a family are worthless without the Lord’s intervention.
What areas of your life are you trying to control on your own? Is it in what you produce at work or in a future you are trying to secure on your own? Are you so consumed with how your kids turn out that you fail to simply rest and trust the Lord? We each need a reminder that in all aspects of life, the wise will look to the Lord, trusting and resting in Him.
Pastor of Equipping
June 10, 2020
In Psalm 56 David is in a world of hurt…
Fear of man
Fear of attack
Fear of being slandered
Fear of being misunderstood
Fear of conspiracy against him
Fear of being watched and hunted
SO MUCH FEAR! And the circumstances were real!
Even though David knows, he knows; he knows that he follows a God he can trust, throughout this Psalm David goes back and forth:
Fear takes hold…
He reminds himself he can trust God!
Fear takes hold…
He reminds himself He has a praiseworthy God!
Fear takes hold…
He reminds himself God’s got this…what can mortal men do to him?
Fear takes hold…
He reminds himself God is just and can bring down the nations!
Fear takes hold…
He reminds himself that God is for him!
Fear takes hold…
He reminds himself that God has delivered him from death & he can walk before God in the light of life!
In these uncertain days, when fear takes hold for you, pause and remember that God has got you. You can trust Him. He is worthy of your praise. No one can harm you because in Christ you have already BEEN DELIVERED FROM DEATH and can walk with Him in the light of life!
Friends, let’s reflect on this Psalm throughout today. Let’s all say all day, “Oh, wait! I remember now!”
Women's Ministry & Special Events
June 9, 2020
I have small kids, and they are crazy at times. They are often disobedient, prone to throw fits, and argue at things we ask of them. It’s easy for me to put all the blame on them. Yet if I’m really honest, if I were to rewind and look at my past actions, attitudes, and responses; they are not the only one to blame. I am not a flawless and perfect parent. I am sinful, broken, and make mistakes. Only God is a perfect Father.
If we want to move the needle in any relationship, we need to recognize the mistakes and fault within ourselves. In Psalm 7, David talks about taking refuge in God, but he also talks about owning his own mistakes. In verse 3-5, David asks God to search him and if there is fault in him that God would fix it. David talks in verse 12 about repenting. Repenting is acknowledging your wrongdoing, your mistakes, your faults, your biases; giving them over to God, and then moving towards the opposite direction of that sin.
Often, the biggest change in our world comes from change within ourselves. If we want to see change in the world around us; it needs to start with us and then move outward! We can see life change, we can see relationships reconciled, we can see the Good News spread like wildfire, but it starts with our own heart change!
In verse 11, David says, “God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day”. Indignation means, “anger or annoyance provoked by what is perceived as unfair treatment”. The question I need to ask myself everyday is, “Do I feel the same indignation that God feels?”, and “What am I going to do with it?” Let today be a day where you examine and own your own shortcomings. Ask God to let you feel the way He feels about them, even before you do them. And commit to walk in the direction of the Righteous Judge, who also happens to be your shield, defender, and perfect Heavenly Father.
June 8, 2020
When reading Scripture, it’s a best practice to first ask “What does it say?” Then, “So what does this mean to me?” And then to formulate your own “What am I going to do about it?” statement. Many Community Groups practice this every week.
In Psalm 34 David begins with his “I will” statement – “I will extoll (bless) the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips. I will glory in the Lord.” (34:1,2). Then he goes on to explain why he will do so: David believes God actually hears him. David continued – “I sought the Lord, and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears.” In verse 6 David exclaims, “This poor man called, and the Lord heard him.” Later in verses 15 and 17 he mentions how God’s ears are attentive to the righteous and He hears their cry.
I don’t know about you, but I have often felt that my prayers were bouncing off the ceiling. As if I was only talking to myself. David was a man who was very familiar with trials and troubles, yet he proclaimed that God is always near and intently interested in the words of His children and the pain they are suffering. David believed God actually “encamps around those who fear Him and He delivers them.” (verse 7).
Why is it sometimes hard for me to realize that He is actively listening to my cry? His Word says that He does.
So what does this Psalm say to me? The Lord is ever present with me, hears me, and ultimately will deliver me. What am I going to do about it? I will call out to Him, knowing that He actually delights in the voice of His children. I will bless Him and glorify Him. I will “taste and see that the Lord is good.” What about you? What will you do today?
June 5, 2020
Believe it or not, I was not a self-parenting child growing up. On multiple occasions (ahem… per day) I found myself sitting in “time-out” to give my emotions or behavior a chance to unwind, or for my brain to have a chance to catch up with my mouth. When I was young, “time-out” felt like a torturous eternity. Today I see it for what it was: a temporary move to protect me from myself, spare others from my actions, and force me self-reflective rhythms that would benefit “Future Me” in immeasurable ways.
There is a clear line between punishment and discipline; in the Bible and in our lives. Punishment destroys. Discipline restores. Punishment aims at the satisfaction of the offended. Discipline aims at the good of the offender. For those who are “in Christ,” we never need to fear God’s punishment; Jesus took it on our behalf. God’s discipline, on the other hand, is something we should expect - even invite – despite being something only a crazy person would enjoy.
In Psalm 6, David calls out during a time out. What strikes me about the Psalm is David’s desperation and gut-deep acknowledgement that he couldn’t take much more (6:5). However, David remains confident in the Father’s love and trusts His protection through the discipline. David is vulnerable, but at the same time he’s not a sitting duck (6:8-10).
These days are not God’s punishment on us. They are opportunities for us to be restored and drawn nearer to the heart of God, even while we cry out “How long?” Take a few moments for self-reflection today. What rhythms might God want to instill in you during this season that would benefit “Future You” in immeasurable ways? Spend some time thanking Him for hearing you. And don’t hesitate to tell Him, “We’ve had enough of this.” Feel free to ask Him, “How long, Lord, how long?”
June 4, 2020
When I was a kid I wanted to be just like my dad. I would dress, talk, and act like him. Most of us emulated something or someone as a child. If we're honest though, it’s not just something we did as children. All people are in a state of transition, and we often aim our lives toward other people or their ideas. Scripture reminds us that we are what we worship. Whatever we love most, or find our greatest joy in, will set the course for how our lives will look and the people we will become.
Psalm 115 urges the people of Israel to trust in the Lord by reminding them of God’s goodness and power compared with the idols of the nations.
The Psalm begins with a plea for God to bring glory to His name, not for His people’s sake, but because of His love and faithfulness. It is not looking back at something God has done but looking in the present or to the future, confidently expecting Him to work again. In verse 2 we see the nations are ridiculing Israel, asking, “Where is their God?” The response is clear: God lives in the heavens untouched by the actions on this Earth. In contrast, verses 3-7 the idols of the world have been created by the very people who look to them for protection. Verse 8 reminds us that in the end, all who trust in those idols will become just like them, dead. The contrast between the Lord and these idols is striking but leads to the plea for God’s people in verse 9. Trust in the Lord. Verses 9-18 are a plea to look to the Lord alone for life, protection, and rest and a commitment to bless the LORD.
Psalm 115 warns us to consider what we worship. What do we love the most? For some, we have been most consumed by a pursuit of money or success, comfort or security. For some of us, we look to another human or an idea for our hope. All of these ‘idols’ will ultimately let us down as v.8 reminds us. Spend some time refocusing your attention, affection, and hope on the Lord. He alone provides joy, purpose and life.
Pastor of Equipping
June 3, 2020
“Count your blessings” is something I heard a lot growing up and it’s really starting to ring true as we go on month 3 of this lock down. I am what you might call an “extreme extrovert” so this has been a difficult time for me. It was ok the first month or so. Quarantine was still a new and exciting adventure. I could wake up, make my coffee and be at work (my kitchen table) all in 10 min! I got to have lunch with my wife every day and then take a walk around the neighborhood.
The new has definitely worn off at this point!
As I read Psalms 63 recently, verses 5-6 caught my eye. Verse 5 says, “My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food.” (There’s no real spiritual reason why this stuck out to me, but because I love food and have eaten a lot during this whole lock down process, and if I don't exercise soon, the “19” in “Covid 19” is going to stand for more than just the year it started!) But the rest of verse 5-6 says “my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night.” I love this because it reminds me that even in hard times like these, I need to remember to count my blessings. It pushes me to remember that even though I may not have recognized it in the moment, God was blessing me throughout my day. One great way to do this is to end your day with writing down at least 3 blessings (big or small) from that day. Will you join with me in doing this over the next week?
Associate Mobilization Director
June 2, 2020
This current season has been a test of my endurance. My physical endurance, emotional endurance and spiritual endurance. A few weeks before the world flipped on its head, I gave birth to my second baby and let me tell you, she may have taken a few seconds to let out that first cry, but I’m pretty sure she hasn’t stopped crying since that day just over three months ago.
But this isn’t just about sharing the challenges I’ve faced over the past few months. This really is a “but God” moment because though my own endurance has failed and failed and failed, His has not. The Lord has been my sole source of strength in this season when the world around me quite literally seems to be crumbling, my toddler won’t stop screaming and my baby won’t stop crying (if you’ve ever heard a crying newborn you know it’s a pretty stress-inducing sound.)
When I read Psalm 136, I was struck by how David says over and over “His love endures forever”. I mean, he literally says it over and over and over. What a sweet and gentle reminder that the Lord’s love for us is utterly unshakeable no matter how difficult we are to love at times. And it gets even better….His love endures forever….think about how long the last few months have felt and how hard they have been to endure, but Jesus is promising us a love that endures forever. He doesn’t put a time limit on it, He doesn’t give us a conditional “if this, then that”, we can simply rest in the fact that His love for us is eternal, un-ending, and always enduring. I don’t know about you, but that gives me great hope in this season.
June 1, 2020
When I pray to God I tend to pray a lot about myself, my work, my kids, my friends; basically anything in this world that I can touch. Maybe I’m the only one that does that (but I bet I’m not!). We all have a tendency to focus on ourselves and our little world.
Psalm 67 is a great refresher and reminder to move beyond ourselves. Notice I didn’t say “skip ourselves.” In fact, the Psalmist begins close to home in verse 1. The key part that we often miss is the reason WHY we are praying for ourselves. The author says in verse 2, “so that your ways may be known on the earth, your salvation among the nations.”
God’s plan for us never stops with us. We’re to pray so that the name of Jesus gets spread through us and our lives!
The Psalmist’s prayer continues to move from himself and the people near him, ultimately to the far reaches of the earth. The heart of this Psalm is that every single person would know the love, forgiveness, truth, mercy, and justice of Jesus! That includes your own house, your neighbor, the person who delivers your food, the people in our own nation, and the people in nations all across the globe.
Today, pray for your little world and then pray for our big world!
May 29, 2020
Psalm 121 is a psalm of ascent, meaning that these are songs that they would sing as they were traveling from the lower parts of the country up to Jerusalem. The journeys were not easy. There were dangers of attacks from bandits hiding out in the hills, waiting to attack and rob (v.1). There was the danger of bodily harm that comes from a treacherous terrain (v.3). There was the ever-present danger of the hot Israeli sun causing sunstroke or even death (v.6). Yet in each one of these situations, God protects His people.
Notice here what the promise is not. The promise is not that there would be no bandits or treacherous walking paths or heat. Look in verse 5, we all know that when it gets hot outside in Texas, you can be in the shade but still feel the heat. The promise is that God’s people can rest knowing that the One who is greater is their shield so that they will never be overcome.
Many of us may be able to relate to this Psalm in a whole new way. I remember at so many points during this crisis that I have felt like the sun was unrelenting in its heat and there was no way I was going to survive. There was the pressure of trying to figure out how I'm supposed to work a full-time job while being a full-time parent. There was the sadness of losing things I loved. There was the strain placed on my marriage. All these things all happening at one time but, despite all of it, I'm still here and I'm stronger now. My faith and the way I see God is more complete.
At this moment, you may feel like the sun is beating down and draining you of all your strength. Take courage knowing that the presence of God this morning is like cool shade or a refreshing breeze to your heart. You will not be overcome.
May 28, 2020
It’s been said that comparison is the mother of discontent. That’s a massive problem in our time. Never before in human history has there been such unfiltered access to the accomplishments and acquisitions of our fellow man. We can see it all. David had no such access to social media, and even still, he was eaten up with envy and jealousy… especially for the people he thought were living wrong, and still apparently winning.
So, David gives himself a little pep-talk. Look at his battle plan: (3) Befriend Faithfulness, (5) Commit Your Way to the Lord, (7) Be Still before God, and, (8) Fret Not Yourself. (Think about how these actions would apply to your life. What would it look for you to befriend faithfulness? To be still…)
We love formulas. This is one of the most misunderstood passages of scripture: (4) “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” We’d love that to mean, “Love God, and He’ll give you the Porsche you want.”
If you’re making it your heart’s ambition to find joy in the Lord, then, the desire of your heart is… wait for it… GOD. So, the formula REALLY is: Delight yourself in the Lord, and God will give you… GOD.
This is a big deal, because we too seldom actually delight ourselves in the Lord. And, that was the Psalmist’s problem. He was fighting a war within himself driven by jealousy and envy. He wanted what “they” had. But, ask any successful person what they wish they had in life, and you’ll likely hear the same answer. It’s found in verse 11.
The result of a life spent delighting in God is ABUNDANT PEACE. God wants that for you today.
May 27, 2020
Psalm 96 is a psalm of adoration. Adoration is the practice of worshiping God by telling him who he is. This can feel strange to us because it isn’t normal interaction with other humans. If I walked up to my boss/friend Sam and said: “Sam, you are Sam! You are the college pastor! You like to make jokes and play with your daughter Charlotte!” He’d probably look at me like I’m crazy… and then make a joke about how I had lost my mind and he already knew all those things about himself!
But this is exactly what God calls us to do, and we see it modeled in this Psalm. The psalmist takes time to declare to God that he is marvelous, great, glorious, the creator, to be feared, strong, and many more adjectives.
He then says in verse 8: “Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name.” We take time to adore God because of his name. When you see “LORD” all caps in Scripture, it means that the writer is using His personal, Covenant name: Yahweh. The meaning of Yahweh is “He Will Be.” In other words, God’s name means that He is the one who is and who will be. God’s existence doesn’t depend on anyone or anything else. This God simply is.
Understanding God’s name leads us to adore and worship him simply for who He is, and not only what he has done. He’s not in danger of getting a big head or misunderstanding the aim of our adoration like another human might be. So today, I encourage you to reflect on Yahweh, the God who was, is, and will be, and to take time to declare to him who he is. Reflect on his character and use Psalm 96 as a place to start!
Associate College Director
May 26, 2020
Our Dog Max, a small Papillon, has recently formed a habit of crying any time I leave the house without him. It's started during this season when I have been home more than usual. When I do have to leave, the rest of the family has to endure his insistent crying until I return.
In Psalm 40:1, David says “I waited patiently for the Lord; He inclined to me and heard my cry.”
David is waiting with a sense of eagerness and hope. He goes on in 40:3, praising God so others will see and fear and put their trust in God. Our hope must be upon the unchanging promise of God. When we hope for the good we know God will ultimately bring from our situation, whether the good turns out to match our desires or not.
In Psalm 40:5, David finds himself overwhelmed by the goodness of God. We can never finish proclaiming God’s faithfulness. He is the covenant keeper, our salvation and hope.
We get a picture of the story of redemption in verses 6-11. It is not the man-made sacrifices that
will completely satisfy the Lord. Deliverance comes from Him, it is His mercy and love that will
save us. He will make us strong in the midst of feeling weak.
Just like our dog Max, whose crying is only satisfied when I am home and he has my attention, we should find contentment in the love of our ever-present God who never turns his attention from us. Let us be like David who says in 40:16, “But may all who search for you be filled with joy and gladness in you. May those who love your salvation repeatedly shout, “The Lord is great!”
May 25, 2020
Stillness is not something that comes naturally for many of us. Never has this been more apparent than these last few months in quarantine. I didn’t realize how much I walked daily until I was home begging my kids to go on a third walk of the day around the neighborhood! Stillness doesn’t come naturally. Being still doesn’t come easy especially when so much around us seems to be sliding into despair. We want to act or do something to fix or solve.
Psalm 46 is written for those times when nightmares become reality. Over the course of the last few months our world seems to be experiencing that. In verses one through three something as chaotic as mountains falling into the sea happens. Where do you look in moments like this? When the world seems to be rapidly changing? Only one place can you find security, or protection, only in the Lord God.
In verses four through seven the psalm shifts and envisions those who might seek their harm. Where do we look or turn in those moments? The answer again is to the Lord, for here the emphasis is upon the fact that the Lord is with them. That they are not alone or abandoned, but the Lord is present as “Immanuel” the God who is with us.
Finally in verses eight through eleven the Psalm concludes with a reminder that the LORD is Ruler or Lord or king over all. His power and authority has no limits, He is not bound by place or situation but is freely able to act according to His power and goodness. Our response is not to act, but to be still. To trust in God alone. To stop worrying and simply rest in Him. Perhaps today that’s what you need to do, before taking another step, to simply “be still” and reflect upon His protection, His presence, and His power.
Pastor of Equipping
May 22, 2020
The first two verses of this Psalm hit very close to home for me this week. Life is hard, mundane, and a struggle. The Lord feels far off. Things I've been praying for months- relief, healing, restoration- have yet to be answered in the ways I would like them to be. In those first two verses I feel seen and known. David gets it. He's frustrated too.
However, verse 3 takes a big turn. Throughout the Psalms David often sits in his frustrations and sadness for longer. Here he immediately reminds himself of Truth. In verses 3-5 he reflects back not on his own life, but on the faithfulness of God to his ancestors; to Abraham, Joseph, and Moses. To these men and many more, David remembers "They trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued."
It is encouraging for my heart, too, to look back on these giants of the faith, the heroes of old, and remember God's faithfulness to them. God has always delivered on the promises He made to His people. What makes me think His faithfulness, goodness, or purposes are any different now?
The interesting thing about those men that David is remembering is that each of them saw God be faithful, but they each also walked through long seasons of waiting. For years, each of them probably prayed and felt like no one was listening, felt that life was mundane and hard, and struggled with the feeling that God was far-off. Abraham waited for over 25 years for the son that God promised him to be born. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers at age 17, experienced brief success in Egypt before being thrown in prison where he was forgotten for several years. It wasn't until he was 30 that he was made overseer of Egypt and God made it clear what his purposes for Joseph were there. Moses? He killed a fellow Israelite in a fit of anger and was exiled from his people and home for 40 years. He didn't come back to lead his people out of Egypt until he was 80 years old!!
It’s easy to read the stories of the Bible and be encouraged by the huge and faithful acts of God all the while forgetting that what takes us 5 minutes to read took those people a lifetime to live. A lifetime of waiting, praying, doubting, trusting, and wondering how and when God would act. Let the heroes of the Bible be an encouragement to us as we wait and trust in our present moment because "in God they trusted and were not put to shame". Surely the same will be true of us. May we wait and live our own stories well!
Associate Young Adults Director
May 21, 2020
A friend of mine shared with me how he picks a Psalm to pray through each day. As I read Psalm 61 today, David’s words seemed to become one with mine. Right away, he begins with his plea, “Hear my cry, O God.” What good is our prayer if our heart is not directed desperately towards God? David continues by laying out his emotions, faintness and following, with his first request of the prayer, “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (v.2).
In the midst of my own faintness with our current situation and my weariness as it keeps pressing on, that is a bold request. First, David is admitting his own weakness, and then asking that the One who is stronger would lead him. I don’t know about you, but that is what I need! Misunderstanding, confusion, and frustration are earmarks of this time for so many of us. David reveals that the best response to these feelings is a cry out to God, not just for immediate resolution of the problem, but to be brought closer to our Father.
In verse 4, David further displays his response to these emotions. He says, “I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.” Do you remember when you were a kid and there was a thunderstorm at night? Maybe, like me, your instinct was to hide under your covers in what felt like a cocoon of safety. That’s how I feel in prayer these days. If we let it, prayer and the presence of God can be a safe place in the midst of chaos.
I wanted all of this to end a lot quicker than it will. I wanted that because my heart’s tendency is to experience joy in celebrating the end to hard times. I struggle to find joy in the middle. However, David shows us, the middle of hard times is often where we find deepest intimacy with God. Being in the cocoon, brings us closer to him. What if today we could celebrate in the middle of the hard time? What if we could find peace in knowing we are near to the God who will protect us? Today, like David in verse 7, ask God to appoint his love and faithfulness to protect you. Let the nearness of God be your rest in the middle of this difficult time instead of simply wishing for it to end.
March 20, 2020
Have you ever watched a police or lawyer television show where they interview a criminal trying to get a confession? TV shows and movies always show the criminal finally breaking after a period of being interviewed and grilled by the authorities. The drama is high and entertaining.
If we’re honest, we often act like those criminals, hesitant to confess our crimes. Why is it that we are hesitant to confess, to God or to those we’ve wronged? I believe we are hesitant because of shame and guilt, and in those moments we often feel like we’re the only ones who have done wrong.
Thankfully, David models what confession looks like. David writes this Psalm after he’s confronted by Nathan for his wrong doings with Bathsheba (You can read that story in 2 Samuel 11). David doesn’t make excuses. Instead, David confesses his sins. He admits his wrongdoing. Then he asks to be cleansed and to be restored. He then commits himself again to the Lord’s service and prays for others.
David models for us how we too can confidently bring our sin to God. David, unknowingly at the time, points directly to Jesus. Jesus offers forgiveness of our sins when we place our trust and faith in Him. When we bring our debt to Him, knowing He’s already paid it, we’re able to keep short accounts with God. That allows us to be with God uninhibited and focuses our path back on the purpose God has for our lives.
After reading David’s model prayer, spend some time confessing your sins to God following David’s example!
March 19, 2020
Psalm 3 talked about waking up in the morning. Psalm 4 talks about lying down to rest. Psalm 5 completes the cycle as the Psalmist starts a brand new day with a sense of expectation and hope. As the new day begins, David is confident God hears his voice (Psalm 5:4). His prayer seems especially relevant today.
David begins his prayer by celebrating that He can come into the presence of God (5:7a) even while he’s only able to look in the direction of the place God’s presence symbolically stayed. Although the Temple in David’s day was different from our church building in some important ways, there are also some similarities. The Temple was a building where God’s people gathered together for the purpose of worship in a way that looked, smelled, and felt different than any other place. Even while David looked toward the place he longed to be, he didn’t allow his heart to become dislocated from the purpose of the place. I think that’s important for us these days as well. We can’t neglect personal worship, and we can’t stop longing to be together again.
The rest of the Psalm is devoted to David begging God to intervene in the world around him. He lived during a time when it was hard to know what news to believe (5:6, 9) or which expert opinion to trust. David prays that he himself would recognize and follow God’s clear leadership (5:8), and that all of God’s people would be protected, glad, filled with joy and blessed (5:11-12). Those seem like pretty good prayers for us this morning as we begin a new day with expectation and hope.
May 18, 2020
I walked out to my car a few days ago and noticed spiderwebs growing on the driver side mirror. Not one spiderweb, but an entire city of spider webs. A sophisticated work of architecture that couldn't have happened over night. At that moment, I realized that it had been a week or more since I had even looked at my car. The car I had once trusted multiple times a day to get me safely from place to place had been sitting and forgotten about.
In Psalm 98, the Psalmist makes a case for singing out loud and singing with joy as you reflect on who God is and how He is faithful. It begins by saying "sing a new song" (vs 1). I love this because it means that God is continuously moving and working... that there is a new reason each day to worship Him. The scripture goes on to give us reasons why He is worthy of our praise (vs 2-3) and then demonstrates some bold expressions of worship in the rest of the passage.
Don't let this season we are in to cause "spiderwebs" to grow on your worship to God... the God you trust and is daily moving and working in your life. I encourage you each day to find a time and place to reflect God's greatness and His faithfulness and to sing a new song to him. You don't have to be a songwriter or a good singer... and it doesn't actually have to be a brand new song. Put on a worship album, pull up an old worship service online or just sing by yourself something you love. But make it new in your heart and allow your worship to reflect the new things He is doing each day.
May 15, 2020
Have you ever sat and contemplated the “measure of your life” and how fleeting our ambitions really are? I would guess it’s not something we make a habit of doing (I know it isn’t for me). When times are good, I find myself anticipating the “next thing” – what’s next for me to look forward to? What’s next for me to accumulate? How can I reach my next goal or upgrade in life? Those things aren’t inherently wrong to look forward to, but if I’m not careful, they can become consuming.
For those of us who don’t find ourselves contemplating the brevity of life often, uncertain times like these force us to do just that – and maybe it’s not a curse. Maybe it’s a blessing. 100 years from now, will I look back at my life and marvel at how many possessions I was able to accumulate? Nope. Will I be patting myself on the back for my career accomplishments? Doubt it.
In God’s infinite grace and mercy, He allows us to catch reminders in uncertain times that our priorities are often flawed and fleeting. He pulls back the curtain to show us how quickly our aspirations can vaporize. But none of this is meant to throw us into despair. It’s meant to show us what truly matters. It’s meant to show us that we are but a “mere breath” in light of eternity. It’s meant to show us that He is better than what we’re chasing. Your highest earthly dream (and mine) doesn’t hold a candle to what He has in store for us in eternity – and maybe that’s what He’s trying to fix our gaze on during this time.
Ever feel like the Lord is silent? Not like the enjoyable “I just escaped my kids for the first time all week” kind of silent, but like “the front door is open and I can’t find my (wife’s) cat, that I literally put in our wedding vows that I wouldn't let escape and now he won’t meow when I call him” kind of silent. The fear-inducing kind of silence. I know I have felt that way at times when I’ve prayed. Times where I'd rather hear “no” than nothing at all. I know I'm not alone because in the first 3 verses of Psalm 28, the Psalmist reflects the same kind of desperation.
Maybe you can relate. Maybe you’re praying to God in desperation and fear what might happen to you or a loved one if God doesn’t show up. Maybe you have a financial, physical, emotional or relational need in this moment. Whatever need you have, know that God is hearing you! Look at verses 6-10. The psalmist praises God because He responded! He sees that the Lord has been listening to him all along. He is listening to you too!
Spend some moments thanking God for hearing your prayers, and asking Him to give you His perspective on the prayers He hasn’t answered yet.
P.S. We did find the cat. We replaced the Tile tag battery so we could find him the next time he hides!
Associate Mobilization Director
We are right at the two-month mark of the stay-at-home order. Two months since the world changed, and two months since it became nearly impossible to remember what day of the week it is! Is it Monday or Thursday? I have to look at my phone to remember. Even though the world changed overnight, each passing day can feel like the “same ole, same ole.”
To that, the Psalmist says, “Look more closely. There’s a new reason to sing today; a reason to write new lyrics today. There’s a new reason to be filled with joy today.” (Psalm 33:1-3). Then he gives us some places to look. His faithfulness, truth, love, righteousness and justice is all over the earth this morning (33:4-5). Can you see it? Look carefully, it’s there. He’s sustaining the earth today with his power and wisdom (33:6-9). Have you noticed His creation power in new ways recently? Look for it. Listen. It’s everywhere. The attempts at governments and power-brokers to seize power are a part of a story, and it won’t end like any of them think (33:16-17). Have you noticed them playing into His hands? Look for it. Wait for it. Keep an eye on the ones who fear Him today. Especially the ones who are victims of injustice or circumstances (33:18-19). Watch how their hope stays anchored to unfailing love. That’s Him who upholds them today.
His eyes are on those who need hope the most; who need Him the most. “Wait a second,” the Psalmist says “that’s us! That’s me” (33:20). When we keep our eyes open for the places He’s working, we ultimately see that His eyes are on us! Even on days that are “same ole, same ole,” there’s a new reason to sing with joy. Just look closely.
Psalm 25 is such a great reminder to me of where I was and where and how far God has brought me. In the first 6 verses of the Psalm, David asks God to teach him his ways and to keep him from harm. I feel like that is a normal prayer that most of us pray a lot. Verse 7 is where the Psalm really starts to resonate with me. David says, “ Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions.”
I don’t know about you, but there was a time in my youth that I completely rebelled against God. I knew that God was real but I was intentional about moving away from Jesus. People would invite me to church and I would say things like “I’ve done my time!” I made it sound like a jail sentence. That’s how much I wanted nothing to do with God. In verse 8, David says that God is faithful, good and upright and instructs sinners in the way. Like David, over time God was faithful to leading me to Himself.
Verse 9 says that he teaches the humble his way, there was a time that God humbled me as I learned what sin was in my life and how it offended God and what I deserved for my sins. Then in verse 11, David asks God to pardon his guilt, and the Lord does! I carried a lot of guilt for the things I had done, for the sins I had committed. The Lord was faithful to not only forgive my sins and take away the guilt; in verse 14 the Psalmist talks about the FRIENDSHIP of the Lord is for those who follow Him as He continues to lead us.
I don’t know where you are at in you’re relationship with God. Maybe you are running completely away from God but you read these devotionals because times are hard now and the devotionals are encouraging. Maybe you are starting to give this “Jesus thing” a chance again (or maybe for the first time). Maybe you follow Jesus but there is some sin in your past or present that you feel guilty of. Or maybe you’re wondering if you’ve drifted. Whatever that relationship looks like this morning, I hope that you see that God is pursuing a relationship with you. A real, authentic relationship and that He is faithful to forgive you, wipe away your guilt, and lead you as a friend when you humble yourself before Him.
Associate Mobilization Director
May 11, 2020
My wife and I have two young girls, ages 2 and 4. I know this will shock you, but my two young angels sometimes fight with each other and throw fits. One phrase we hear often is, “That’s not fair!” Typically it is when one of them gets dessert for finishing dinner, and the other gets nothing because she only had two bites to eat.
Isn’t it great that we all grow out of that stage? Have you grown out of that stage? I’m not sure that I can 100% say that I have! There are times in my life where I say, “That’s not fair!” As much as we want to right all of the wrongs, perceived or legitimate, in the world (or even just in our world), we can’t. We can’t be judge, jury, and executioner. That’s probably a good thing!
We didn’t make the law. We didn’t design people or relationships. God did. Today’s Psalm reminds us that God is the creator of all and controls all. The important part in this Psalm to notice is verse 6, “And the heavens proclaim His righteousness, for He is a God of justice”. When we cry out “That’s not fair!” , we can remember that God is just. His ways are perfect and we must trust in His plan, even at our own discomfort.