Bible Reading Blog

Bible Reading Blog

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The Step Beyond Praise

Friday, November 06, 2020

BIBLE READING: Psalm 95

“Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture…” (Psalm 95.6-7)

Praise is a powerful prelude to worship, but we must not neglect the step beyond praise. True worship is never simply about acknowledgment – It can’t be! How could we, in true faith, observe these characteristics of God and be content to move along unchanged? Praise should bring us to a point of sober reality and response. Even the fool-hearted Israelites were moved to commitment when confronted with the reality of God (see Exodus 20.18-19; 24.3-8). But it was not his physical presence, but the voice of God that powerfully shook the earth as well as their hearts. How could you not worship and bow down before that sort of God?!

The problem for us is we don’t hear his voice as they did. I’m not talking about a physical voice from heaven, but a voice of authority. Even in their obstinance, God’s voice shook them to the soul as they understood his commanding power. They had no choice but to respond in obedience because they saw their littleness before him.

In similar fashion, it is through God’s words that we experience and understand his nature and person. It is where he reveals himself in all his glory. Although the ground may not shake, God’s words are powerful to shake and stir our souls (Hebrews 4.12). They command and constrain us by directing our thoughts and actions. But this is our choice.

“Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts…” (Psalm 95.7c).

This choice is so serious that the writer of Hebrews says we must "exhort one another daily" (Hebrews 3.13) so as not to fall into unbelief. If the choice to praise is not accompanied with submission and obedience, we will become hardened, deceived and fall away from God (Hebrews 3.12-13)

Notice this psalm of praise ends with a warning. Even if we were to see God do amazing things, if we have not sanctified the Lord in our hearts (1 Peter 3.15), we will go astray just like the Israelites (Psalm 95.10) and fail to receive the prize (Psalm 95.11). My friends, if it can happen to Israel, it can happen to us (Hebrews 3.16-4.1). Let us be faithful in our obedience, that none of us may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3.13).

“See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we scape if we reject him who warns from heaven. At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, ‘Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.’ … Therefore… let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12.25-26, 28-29)

From Everlasting to Everlasting

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

BIBLE READING: Psalm 90 – A Song of Moses

“Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations… from everlasting to everlasting you are God” (Psalm 90.1-2)

Ramses II definitively led the Egyptian empire to world dominance with military conquests and elaborate engineering projects. Sennacherib notoriously taunted nations as the Assyrian army pummeled its way to world power. Nebuchadnezzar II overran the Assyrians and conquered most of the known world, catapulting the Babylonians to world dominance. 

In their times, these men and nations were feared and followed… but where are they now? They are simply a character of the past because their time is over. History shows that even the most imposing nations have failed to sustain their power. But while nations and leaders have come and gone, YHWH has always been God.

You can change the person and title, but in every generation, God is present and powerful. It is significant that Scripture offer glimpses of these men in their greatness, in relation to God; and the outcome is consistent: God dominates and persists (for example Exodus 10; 2 Chronicles 32; Daniel 4.28-37)

It is God’s enduring power in which Moses finds both comfort and great fear. God is personal (Psalm 90.1, 13) and powerful (Psalm 90.5) but also punitive (Psalm 90.7-8). Unlike earthly leaders, who rely on support for their efforts, God will make his will be done (Psalm 90.11).

In his time and his ways, he determines the existence of the earth and all things in it (Psalm 90.3-4). All are at his eternal mercy (Psalm 90.9). We may fixate on the power of those in immediate view, but just as every other “great” nation and leader, they are limited by time, space and ability.

On this day, we see another world power flexing its muscles. Our attention is drawn to who will take over one of the most powerful offices in the world. As believers in God our vision must be clear. The outcome of this election will affect out immediate future, but it will be nothing more than a paragraph in the annals of history. However, it will, as with every other time in history, fall under the purpose and plans of God. Whether we perceive the outcome as good or bad, it is in God’s hands. And so, we must treat it as such in light of the One we trust with our eternal future. 

We are at his mercy as we trust him to provide and protect us (Psalm 90.15). He will because God is faithful to his people. So, let us not take for granted the greatness and consistency of God to satisfy, sustain and support those who trust him. From everlasting to everlasting, he is God. 

“Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!” (Psalm 90.17)

Praise For His Greatness

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

BIBLE READING: Psalm 86

Michael Jordan is considered by many to be the greatest basketball player of all time. In a recent documentary by ESPN, Michael was shown meeting with some obviously starstruck fans. They had purchased VIP passes to have this special moment with their idol. Everything that came out of their mouths was praise for his greatness – “you’re the best basketball player ever… I’m you’re biggest fan… it’s such an honor.” It was embarrassing to watch how overwhelmed they were by his presence.

Maybe you don’t turn into a blubbering idiot, but we all are affected by the presence of those whom we perceive as “greater” than us. We tend to say things that are complementary and directed at who they are rather than who we are. This is what we see in Psalm 86. Although the writer prays for his situation and needs, much of his prayer praises the greatness of God.

“There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours… you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God…” (Psalm 86.8, 10)

Recognizing the opportunity of prayer, this psalmist wants nothing more than the favor of God. In the presence of true greatness, he unashamedly pours out sincere praise. The amazing thing is that God hears, helps and comforts him (Psalm 86.17b).

The disparity between God and human greatness is evident. But the great paradox of prayer is that, even in his greatness, God makes himself available to all. What a unique privilege… and yet how often do we enter his presence talking about ourselves? I think if we truly appreciated the magnificence of God, we would act more like Peter on the mount of Transfiguration… bumbling over words and just unable to fathom the glory of God that is right in front us (Matthew 17.2-6). 

The fact is, a proper realization of God’s greatness will inevitably prompt praise. In Revelation 4, John was shown the glorious throne room of God. In this scene were magnificent creatures and powerful rulers on their own thrones; but their glory is an unworthy contrast as they behold Almighty God. “…they cast their crowns before [His] throne, saying, ‘Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” (Revelation 4.10-11). How much more should we, the saved and redeemed, be overwhelmed by the desire to praise?

As you consider this privilege, how often do you include praise in your prayers? How much of your prayer contains praise?Although quantity is not prescribed, the more we verbalize the greatness of God, the more truly amazed we will be.

“Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God? You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples.” (Psalm 77.13-14)

A Doorkeeper in the House of My God

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

BIBLE READING: Psalm 84

“I can’t wait to get home.” I remember thinking this as we ended our trip to Ethiopia this past January. I’m sure you’ve all felt that longing for home, but when you’re 8,000 miles from home, it’s a little different. We had a long way to go and there was nothing more that I wanted than to be in a familiar place with the people I cherish most. 

As great as it is to get away, see other places, or even do good work for others, the stress draws us back to a place of settling and security. For the psalmist that place was the dwelling of God. 

“How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God… For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.” (Psalm 84.1-2; 10-11)

Early in Israel’s history, God established a physical location to remind them of his presence among them (see Exodus 25.8; 29.45-46). As they looked to the center of the camp (Numbers 2.17) or up at the temple mount, this symbol represented God’s power, provision and protection.

The psalmist most likely served in the temple as a doorkeeper (see 1 Chronicles 9) and his declarations surely echoed his daily experience. He observed those who came for worship and left strengthened and settled by God’s presence. For him, this place of God’s dwelling was not about the magnificent structure but the magnificent God who affected those who entered. 

Although we no longer have a physical temple to attend, the presence of God is his promise to all believers in Christ. “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God” (Revelation 21.3). Through our obedience, all our longings for settling, strength and security are found in knowing that we can be at home with God and Christ (John 14.23). 

I can’t help but think of the prodigal son when I read this psalm (Luke 15.11-32). He left his father’s house to experience life and found himself sleeping with pigs. But he came to his senses, he realized it was better to be a servant in his father’s house than to live apart from him. He chose to come back, not because it would be easy but because he knew he would be provided for. Of course, the father didn’t make him a servant but restored and blessed him beyond measure. 

We will long for these things, and even pursue others means of satisfaction; but there is nothing better than to be at home with the LORD. 

“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” (Zephaniah 3.17)

Put The Fire Out

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

BIBLE READING: Proverbs 26

“For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases. As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife.” (Proverbs 26.20-21)

You’ve heard the wise adage, “Don’t put fuel on the fire” and here is why: Fire can’t burn by itself. It needs heat. It needs a fuel source. It needs oxygen. Fire only exists as a reaction to these components. When all are present, they create a self-perpetuating reaction that destroys everything involved. But take away one component and the fire goes out. 

In the same way, strife exists in the world, but not apart from people and relationships. We are the fuel source – our words and actions. When negative actions combine with thoughtless words, strife develops and grows. Like fire, when allowed to smolder and spread, everything involved will eventually be destroyed. 

We are blessed to live in a culture that allows us opportunity to speak freely, but it is evident that “when words are many transgression is not lacking” (Proverbs 10.19). Between social issues and the polarizing political season, we’re living in a culture where strife is already burning hot. The battle lines are drawn, and gasoline is being dumped onto the fire daily. We can easily grow accustomed to the “contention over consideration” mentality and allow it to dictate how we behave towards others. 

This attitude needs to die with us. 

Jesus set this example. Throughout His ministry, He was mocked, challenged and reviled by His enemies. He always listened and answered in an intelligent, effective manner (John 8.1-8). Sometimes He simply left and did not dignify their foolish arguments with a response—showing amazing self-control (Mark 8.11-13).

This should not deter us from conviction but teach us to be considerate of the conditions in which we present them. “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4.29). 

When it comes to our speech, every person carries a bucket of gasoline and a bucket of water. When you hear rumors, gossip, juicy information, you can either pour your gasoline on it, add fuel to the fire and make it worse; or you can do what God says and let the fire die with you. 

Too many people are using their gasoline. They try to justify it, "But it's the truth. They were wrong. I'm just stating the facts". Yes, they may be guilty, but the scripture says love doesn’t take pleasure in voicing its own opinion (Proverbs 18.2). Love doesn't get on Facebook and stir up strife. Love doesn’t build bigger fires. Instead, love considers what to say so that others would be built up.                                                                                                                                         

"Have you heard a word against your neighbor? Then let it die within you.” -Ben Sira

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