Saturday
Dec032016

Psalm 20 - A Kingly Prayer for You Today

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Israel's "Six Day War" of 1967 is one of the greatest and most decisive battles of the 20th century. Against the combined forces of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon, Israel faced certain annihilation. But a brilliant military strategy by Israel through a surprise, preemptive strike against Egypt decimated their air force, and in turn gave Israel vaunted air superiority throughout the war which helped them achieve a decisive victory.

But it's more than that. Throughout the centuries, Israel has always faced existential threats from its hostile Arab neighbors even today. And throughout the years Israel has survived and remains a strong nation, always ready to defend herself. How so? Psalm 20 gives us one of the keys.

Psalm 20 is a kingly prayer for those who go to battle. From verse 6 and on the prayer goes, "The LORD gives victory to his anointed. He answers Him from his heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of his right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God."

One just has to look at Israel's history if there is any doubt about the existence of God. Is it any wonder how this tiny nation, the size of the state of New Jersey, has survived against overwhelming odds even through the darkest times of its history - especially during the holocaust? Israel is God's sounding board to the world and prophetic timetable for the ages.

In the sense that God has chosen Israel as His people, God has also chosen us to be His sons and daughters through faith in the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus. He is our King and thus Psalm 20 is very much applicable to all of us. It is a Kingly prayer for you and me, one that we can access anytime we are in distress. Here's the first five verses:

"May the LORD answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you. May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion. May he remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings. May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. May we shout for joy over your victory and lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the LORD grant all your requests."

What an awesome and beautiful prayer! We can carry this with us anywhere we go. Truly a remarkable prayer.
Saturday
Nov192016

Psalm 19 - An Inescapable Witness

 

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We are witnesses to the amazing beauty and mystery of the moon when it stood the closest to our planet in nearly 70 years about a week ago. It was 14% bigger and 30% brighter than usual. Facebook was littered with pictures captured by people who marveled at this phenomenon. What makes such rare occurrence pique people's interest and cause them to marvel at this beauty? Psalm 19 gives us a clue: "the heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands."

Psalm 19 contains one of the most powerful arguments for the existence of God. A paraphrased version of the Bible called "The Message" minces no words, "God's glory is on tour in the skies, God-craft on exhibit across the horizon. Madame Day holds classes every morning, Professor Night lectures each evening" (vv. 1-2).

The famous French mathematician and physicist, Blaise Pascal, once stated, "The eternal silence of these infinite spaces frightens me." The vast expanse of the universe continues to baffle science and yet they also continue to speak to everyone's heart. If there is any doubt of the existence of God, take a walk outside at night and look up above, and let the majestic beauty of the skies and the profound mysteries of the heavenlies sink deep into your soul.

There may be "eternal silence" as described by Pascal but David who wrote this psalm saw something beyond this silence, "day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world." If we stay long enough to listen in to the revelation of heaven we may yet find what our soul is longing for.

The psalmist ends this chapter with a verse we often quote, "May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer (verse 14)." The words of our mouth and the meditation of our heart always go together. You can tell a person's character by the way he speaks. Our inner thoughts are revealed by the words we utter.

How then can our words and the reflections of our heart be pleasing in God's sight? The answer is found from the verses preceding verse 14. By loving and holding in high esteem the word of God described by the psalmist in this chapter as one that refreshes the soul, gives joy to the heart, and light to the eyes. He goes on to say that God's word is more precious than gold and sweeter than honey.

When we spend time in the Word our words and the inner thoughts of our hearts become pleasing in the sight of our LORD who is our solid Rock and also our Redeemer.
Tuesday
Nov082016

Psalm 18 - "Solid As The Rock of Gibraltar"

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As we cast our votes today in a very contentious US election that has grave consequences we are placing our trust not in the candidates but in the strength and wisdom of the great King and Ruler of the universe. And no matter what the outcome is our King remains seated on the throne; His kingdom unshaken and will be advancing regardless of who occupies the White House.

The saying "solid as the Rock of Gibraltar" is used to describe an entity that is very safe or firm. In Psalm 18, David refers to God as his "rock" four times - twice in verse two and once in verse thirty-one and also in verse forty-six.

Faced with the wrath of his enemies and the relentless pursuit of King Saul, David turns to God and reassures himself, "The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold."

Now that's quite a mouthful of praise. In just one verse alone, David enumerates seven things about God: He is our rock, fortress, deliverer, refuge, shield, salvation, and stronghold. With a God like this, who can be against us? Who can destroy us? I'd like to call this a seven-fold insurance and assurance against all calamities that we may face in life.

In verses 3 to 6 David narrates his near-death experience and how the Lord saved him. Verses 8 to 15 use metaphors describing the awesome power of God our Rock. Verses 16 to 19 detail how God rescues David from his adversaries. In verses 20 to 29, David shows us the rewards of faithfulness, humility, and obedience that translates to righteousness. Verses 30 to 45 describe a warrior on the offense with words like, "You armed me with strength for battle; you humbled my adversaries before me."

And then in the last passages from verse 46 to 50, David rises to worship the sovereign and all-powerful God who "avenges" and "subdues" nations. He doubles down on His praise, "The LORD lives! Praise be to my Rock!"
Sunday
Oct092016

Psalm 17 - An Amazing Faith-filled Worship

imageIt's always a great blessing to have dad and mom accompany us to do ministry in other churches. Here we were at a Fil-Am Church meeting in a Messianic Synagogue where Jewish Christians meet in Chicago. I thank God for His continued gift of physical health and longevity upon their lives in spite of health challenges. God is good all the time!

On a beautiful Sunday morning we look into the rich passages of Psalm 17. Allow me to share:

While no one can dictate on God or twist His arms to do our bidding we can implore Him to do what is right. Psalm 17 illustrates how David, the author of this psalm, asks God to listen to him on the basis of  his righteousness which emanates from a righteous heart transformed by God. Here's what he said at the beginning of this psalm:

"Hear me, LORD, my plea is just; listen to my cry. Hear my prayer - it does not rise from deceitful lips..."

David even challenges God to test him:

"Though you probe my heart, though you examine me at night and test me, you will find that I have planned no evil; my mouth has not transgressed."

A very presumptuous, self-righteous person this David is we may say. How could he claim purity and righteousness when there is no one who is perfect and right before God? This question takes us right into Hebrews 4:16 which encourages us to come before God's presence with boldness, "Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."

It is interesting to note that just prior to this verse in Hebrews, the author talks about our great High Priest who ascended into heaven after laying his life down for us that we may obtain the right standing before God which gives us an unfettered access to the throne room of God.

No David was not being presumptuous when he asks God to act on his behalf because of his enemies. He comes on the basis of his faith and is expressing liberally that which God has already committed to do in behalf of His children. He is in other words echoing back the promises God made for those who trust in Him. In this psalm he affirms God's promises:

"I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer. Show me the wonders of your great love, you who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes. Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadows of your wings."

Wow...what an amazing and faith-filled worship coming from an overflowing heart filled with the love, assurance, and blessings of God.

David's faith goes further beyond the grave for he understands its eternal implications. He knows that death is not the end of everything but rather it is the gateway of unending bliss with God. He ends this beautiful psalm with a great declaration of immortality, victory, and satisfaction:

"As for me, I will be vindicated and will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness."

 
Sunday
Sep252016

Psalm 16

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It's been said that Psalm 16 is a psalm of lament. Yet by the time we finish reading it we can also come to a conclusion that it is a celebratory psalm. Just notice the ending of this psalm, "You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand."

"The path of life" - everyone's talking about how to find it. Books in Walmart are filled with such title. "Joy in your presence" - in a world so dysfunctional and empty joy is the one missing ingredient. "Eternal pleasures at Your right hand" - while earthly goods only offer temporary pleasure God-derived pleasure offers a better alternative, a more lasting fulfillment in the pursuit of His will. Who would not want any of these?

Psalm 16 also echoes Psalm 14's assertion that there is no one who does good. It states, "You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing." This is why we teach that goodness in and of ourselves alone is never enough to earn our ticket to heaven. We need someone outside of us to redeem us from the sin nature passed down on us. This is where a Savior needs to come in to save us - a Savior who once proclaimed through unequivocal terms, "I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one can come to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6). And this Savior's name is Jesus.

Psalm 16 also contains an admonition, "Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more." King Solomon, touted to be the wisest person who ever lived, knows this principle all too well. He pursued various gods in his lifetime - wealth, fame, education, sex and pleasure. He held nothing back and got everything he desired. When he assessed all that he had done and achieved in life, he astonishingly concluded that apart from God everything is but an absolute futility, like chasing after the wind.

The things that truly matter most in life are few and far between. Faith in a a living and sovereign God is foremost of them. As the psalmist David looks up to this God and affirms His mighty presence he begins to worship, "I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me."

While this psalm is considered a Messianic psalm which is ascribed to the suffering Jesus prophetically, we can say with David, "You will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave." In God, death loses its sting. Make God your refuge and He will keep you safe and secure - not from trouble but in spite of or in the midst of it all (Psalm 16:1).
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