Wednesday
Aug242016

Psalm 15

The president of the Philippines had recently ordered thousands of presidential appointees to vacate their positions due to continuing bureaucratic red tape and unbridled corruption in government in spite of his previous order.

Many of our citizens (and netizens) clamor for a corrupt-free government marked by honesty and integrity, one of the reasons why the current president won by a landslide margin because he spoke strongly on these issues.

Psalm 15 provides an excellent recipe for a corrupt-free government. The Message, a paraphrased translation of the Bible by Eugene Peterson, does a very good job simplifying this particular psalm. Here's a portion of it.

"Walk straight, act right, tell the truth. Don't hurt your friend, don't blame your neighbor; despise the despicable. Keep your word even when it costs you, make an honest living, never take a bribe."

Now that's a great word for people in government written thousands of years ago!

But the great paradox of moral uprightness is how can individuals have the power and ability to walk straight, act right, and tell the truth without a moral or spiritual center as their guide? There has to be a moral frame of reference by which individuals must base their actions from and have a rationale for them.

Can a person act good even without having a relationship with God? Yes, either by godly influences or a natural sense of morality. The fact is we are created in the image and likeness of God who reflects His character of goodness. But this character of God in us has been marred by sin. That's why in the previous psalm, Psalm 14, it is stated that, "There is no one that does good, no, not one." Even the best human good that we can offer will never measure up. Reason why such a religious man like Nicodemus and the rich young man who claimed to be morally upright were told by Jesus to believe and completely put their trust in Him.

How then can we "abide in His tabernacle and dwell in His holy hill" as fallen individuals? The answer is in the cross of Jesus. All of us are in need of redemption because it is only through the impartation of Christ's life, His righteousness in us that we can abide and dwell in Him. Psalm 15 shows the fruit of that righteousness which empowers us by His grace to walk straight, act right, and tell the truth.

Ravi Zacharias, a well known Christian apologist, once remarked that there is a logical, chronological sequence to being right with God. They are redemption, righteousness, and worship. The order cannot be altered. We have to experience redemption first in order to receive God's righteousness so that we can worship acceptably.

Psalm 15 ends with a great promise: "He who does these things shall never be moved." A person who has the life of Christ in Him and living in His power will be strong and unshakeable.
Thursday
Aug182016

Psalm 14

Psalm 14 begins with a thought-provoking statement, "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.'" The word fool here does not refer to a mental deficiency but to a spiritual state that refuses to acknowledge the existence and sovereignty of God. Psalm 14 also shows the likely natural progression of a life alienated from God which can easily lead to a downward spiral as can be gleaned from the descriptions the psalmist uses like "corrupt" and "abominable works."

The Bible does not set out to prove the existence of God but rather it affirms and declares it to be so in a clear and unambiguous and unapologetic manner. The first passage of the Scriptures alone states, "In the beginning God..." - an uncompromising statement which debunks all other theories antithetical to God.

Psalm 14:13 is a truth restated in the New Testament: "There is none who does good, no, not one." This truth is foundational in our understanding of true salvation where as born sinners we are desperately in need of a Savior. We may try to be good, do charitable acts, or go to church to obtain salvation, but apart from experiencing an inward transformation through faith in God's own Son, we will never attain salvation simply because on our own it will never be enough - even in our best form we will always fall short.

Towards the end of Psalm 14, David expresses his desire to see his nation's deliverance when he stated, "Oh, that the salvation of Israel could come out of Zion!" There will be a future national deliverance for the Jewish people, but for those who are longing for personal salvation, it can be had now, for the Word of God declares, "Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:2).
Sunday
Aug142016

Psalm 13

To be forgotten and never to be remembered can be the worst feeling in the world. Ask the homeless man on the street and he could probably tell us that it's not the absence of a dwelling place that's squeezing the life out of him but it's the overpowering feeling of being abandoned by family and friends. Or perhaps we can ask a elderly person in a care home what it feels like for someone who has never been visited by a loved one for years. The feelings of loneliness and despair can be overwhelming.

David experienced more than this. He felt that his only Source of life and joy has deserted him! Let's listen in to his words, "How Long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?" We may still bear the pain of being forgotten by humans but to have the gnawing feeling that the God of hope and mercy has deserted us may yet be far tougher to the soul than anything else. For where do we turn to if God is no longer around?

Indeed there are moments in our lives when we feel as if God is absent and has forgotten us especially during times of great physical, emotional, and spiritual need when our burden seems too overwhelming. Like David, we become anxious, frantic, and restless having "sorrow in my heart daily."

Feeling forsaken, David's anguished soul is crying out, "Consider and hear me, O Lord my God; enlighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death." In other words, David is saying, "I am going to die if I don't hear from you, God!"

How do we regain our spiritual footing when life pushes us to the edge and we feel abandoned and forgotten?

The latter part of Psalm 13 gives us the answer. After commiserating with himself, David reawakens and picks himself up. First, he reaffirms his trust in the mercy of God, "But I have trusted in your mercy." Second, he reminds himself of the great salvation that he has, "My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation." And then thirdly, he looks back and remembers all the good things that God has done in his life, "I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me."

God's mercy reminds us that God has not forgotten us. We experience it everyday. Our salvation has put to rest the issue of our eternal destiny. We may experience great trouble for our souls while on earth but our souls are eternally secure in God's hands. When we look back at how the Lord has dealt bountifully with us, we can still rejoice and have a song in our heart no matter how bleak our present circumstances may be.

No, God has not forgotten us. When we hear the chirping  of the birds in the morning and see the dazzling beauty of nature around us they remind us that we are way too precious to be forgotten by a God who created and breathed life into all of us.
Wednesday
Aug102016

Psalm 12

With the US presidential election heating up the exchanges of accusatory words and rhetorics between the two candidates and their parties are becoming more intense and sharp. As in any election season, if candidates are not careful about their choices of words it can backfire and haunt them on Election Day. One candidate is already being accused of inciting violence because of poor choice of words and careless off-the-cuff remarks.

In Psalm 12, David notices the vanishing breed of godly and faithful men in his generation. In their place are people unabashedly uttering destructive words to others.  To these people David has this to say, "They speak idly everyone with his neighbor; with flattering lips and a double heart they speak."

If we are not careful with our words we can easily bring harm and destruction to others even to those who are closest to us. Let's use our words to build up instead of to tear down, to encourage instead of to put down, to strengthen instead of to weaken. Words have power and through them we can impact the lives of others daily around us - potentially for life either positively or negatively. Let us leverage that power to its greatest use.

Psalm 12 also provides a stark contrast between the inconsistency of man's words and the integrity of God's words. After describing the words of the disobedient and oppressors of the poor, David has this to say about God's words, "The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times."

The number seven symbolizes perfection. God's words are perfect and above reproach. We can depend on them and be our source of strength and courage in times of great need. His words are tried and true and when all else has failed His words will always be there for the humble and needy.

Now for those looking for safety and security in God hear this, "You shall keep them, O Lord, you shall preserve them from this generation forever."

That's His word for you and me and we can bank on it.
Tuesday
Aug092016

Psalm 11

By the grace of God, we arrived safely from the Philippines a few days ago via Delta Airlines, which we found out today experienced a massive computer glitch, a suspected hack into their system, and put all their flights at a standstill globally. Definitely not a good thing for everyone.

But we thank and praise God for keeping us safe and granting us so much favor throughout our vacation. All glory to Him!

We are continuing our journey through the Psalms and please allow me to share my thoughts on Psalm 11.

The beginning of this Psalm is a declaration of intent. Regardless of the adversities that David is facing, he has made up his mind from the very beginning to trust in God. He declares in verse one, "In the Lord I put my trust."

It will be half the battle won if we decide in our heart to trust and rely upon God completely even before any event transpires or our circumstances change. David, by declaring his intent from the start to make God His refuge regardless of his situation in life, has fortified himself for tough battles ahead.

In Psalm 11, David feels the pressure from his enemies as they sneer at him, "Flee as a bird to your mountain." With the influence of the wicked on the rise and his adversaries preparing to pounce on him, David is being forced to abandon all hopes and flee to the mountains. Christians in times past and the present do feel this kind of pressure when persecution arises and they are taunted for their faith.

David opines that when the moral and spiritual foundations of society break down there is little that the righteous can do. He says, "If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?" Perhaps a better question would be, "If the foundations are destroyed, can society sustain itself on its own?"

In order for society to thrive and prosper it must be built on the principles of truth and justice, respect for life and property of others, submission to authorities, personal accountability and responsibility - all fundamental principles found and taught in the Scriptures. When these principles are removed or destroyed society will implode and chaos and disorder will be the natural consequences.

"If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?" We remain steadfast by continuing to trust in God as David does, living out godly principles in an amoral culture, and demonstrating in tangible ways God's love to fallen humanity.

"The Lord is in His holy temple, the Lord's throne is in heaven." In spite of the negative turn of events around us, God continues to occupy His throne, firmly in control and holding everything together through His wisdom and great power. In the end, true justice will prevail against God's enemies and the righteous will always have God's favor on their side.

This Psalm ends with a beautiful promise: "...His countenance beholds the upright." The upright meaning those who have trusted in Jesus' redeeming work on the cross and not on their own ability to be good.
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