Category: Psalms (page 1 of 12)

Songs in the Night

“Behold! Bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord
who minister by night in the house of the Lord.
Lift up your hands in the sanctuary
and bless the Lord.
May the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth,
bless you from Zion.”

~ Psalm 134

It is nighttime at the temple. This psalm describes nighttime worship in the presence of God. King David had set things up so that God was worshiped around the clock at the temple, during all hours of the day and night. If you look at Psalm 92 and a couple of places in 1 Chronicles, you see that the temple choirs and praise bands blessed the Lord all day long and through the night. I know when you’re in church on Sunday morning you’re constantly glancing at your watch, you’re leaning over to the person next to you: “When is this over?” If you were in the temple in Jerusalem and asked a priest, “When is this over?” he would say, “It’s not! It’s never over! From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised!”

This 24-hour worship in the temple, this around the clock praise in the presence of God, is symbolic. It’s supposed to communicate certain realities that we can’t always see.

One of those realities is that our God never sleeps. Our God is 24/7. The pagan temples of this time always closed down operations at night because the god(s) needed to sleep. Remember Elijah talking trash to the priests of Ba’al on Mount Carmel? “Why is your god not answering you? Maybe he’s taking a nap!”

Not our God.

Psalm 121 assures us that God is watching over us and will not slumber, he will not sleep. Psalm 127 tells us the Lord provides for us while we sleep. You and I can be sound asleep in the middle of the night, knowing our Lord is wide awake and watching over us and our loved ones, protecting us, doing what’s best for us.

It also reminds us that God gives us songs in the night. When it’s dark. When times are tough. When you can’t see your way. When you can’t do anything else. You can always praise God. In fact, that’s probably the best thing you can do: bless the Lord. Even in the night.

Psalm 42 says by day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me. Psalm 77 claims that we remember our songs in the night. Job’s friend mused, “Where is God my Maker, who gives songs in the night?” David sings in the darkness of the cave while his life is in danger. Paul and Silas sing while they’re suffering at night in the Philippian jail. Jesus and his disciples sang a hymn while they walked to Gethsemane on that terrible night.

When you are sound asleep, God is being praised. And in the depths of your darkest night, you can always praise God.

Go Stars.

Allan

Psalm 19

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out into all the earth, their works to the ends of the world.

Suffering is Real. So is God.

“Man is born to trouble, as surely as sparks fly upward.”  
~Job 5:7

As surely as the wind blows in Amarillo. As surely as the Cowboys lose to the Eagles in December with a playoff berth on the line. All people are born to trouble. It just happens. It’s a fact. Jesus says, “In this world, you will have trouble.”

“Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord;
O Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.”
~Psalm 130:1-2

This Psalm of Ascents does two things to the problem of suffering and pain. First, it gives human suffering dignity.

This is an anguished prayer. And by bringing the pain and suffering out into the open like this, by making the pain public, the psalmist gives dignity to suffering. The psalm doesn’t treat suffering like it’s something to be embarrassed about or something we’ve got to hush up or lock up in a closet somewhere so nobody can see it. The writer owns it. I cry to you. Hear my voice. Be attentive to my cry. I am suffering. Me!

And it doesn’t treat suffering like it’s a mystery or a puzzle to be figured out and explained. The pain and suffering is just proclaimed. Boom! Here it is! The depths, acknowledged and expressed. It’s in the open.

And if that’s all this psalm did, that would be huge by itself. Giving dignity to human suffering? Nobody does that. Our culture does not respect people in pain. Our society says everybody should be constantly happy and healthy. And, if you’re not, well, something’s wrong with you. You’re a problem that has to be solved. Everybody you know will try to fix you. And when they can’t fix you, they’ll forget about you.

The problem is that we want to cover up our suffering. We want to ignore it. But that’s not the reality. Suffering is real. It happens to everybody. Psalm 130 knows that and dignifies it by talking about it. This cry comes from deep, dark place; and it’s real. Christians respond to suffering as reality, we don’t deny it as an illusion.

If we ever wanted to ignore suffering, we certainly can’t do it right now. The virus pandemic, the racial injustice, and the economic disasters won’t let us. All the sickness and death, all the disparity and violence, all the poverty and loss — it’s all real. And we don’t avoid it out of fear; we face it in faith.

And we don’t pretend like there are easy answers. No cliches here about what went wrong and how to fix it. No quick Band-Aid to cover it up so nobody has to see it. Psalm 130 is like the whole Bible, really. You never read in the Bible that there’s a quick fix to suffering: take a vacation, pick up a new hobby, go get a massage. Human suffering is held up and proclaimed as the real experience of all people. It’s given great dignity.

And it’s given to God.

All this deep, dark suffering is lifted to God, which means God is taken seriously. God is real. The name of God is used eight times in the eight verses of Psalm 130. It’s not a religious formality, God is at the very center of the whole thing. God is described in this psalm as a personal redeemer: he is personal, so you can have a real relationship with him and he is a redeemer, which means you can expect to receive help from him. Even in the middle of suffering, there is great meaning to your life because there is salvation for your life.

Psalm 130 tells us God forgives sin. It tells us God is full of steadfast love and abundant redemption for us. The psalm says God is not indifferent toward you or apathetic about what’s happening with you. He acts decidedly and positively toward his people. He’s not rejecting. He’s not condemning. He’s not silent, still, absent, missing in action, or not paying attention. And he’s not stingy. He’s not doling out just enough so that you can barely survive each day. He comes to us and he gives us everything.

The presupposition behind the Scriptures is that God’s child is in distress and God’s intent is to help the person out. He is on my side, remember? Psalm 124. He is my help.

We know this about our Father and that’s why we bring our pain to him. That’s why we can face it and live through it. Our God is in control of it and he’s the only one who can do anything about it. And he will. He does.

That’s why we bring our suffering to God in prayer. We don’t write letters to the editor, gripe and complain at the beauty shop, or look for relief in alcohol or drugs or Facebook. We bring it to God. We immerse it in God. Your suffering is real. And our God is real. That’s where we find our hope.

Go Mavs.

Allan

Secure in the Lord

“Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion,
which cannot be shaken but endures forever.
As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
so the Lord surrounds his people both now and forevermore.”
~ Psalm 125

God wants you to be more sure of your salvation than you are. You belong to him forever. But we don’t always talk like it.

The way we talk does reveal what’s inside our souls. We say things like, “I hope God just lets me sneak into heaven” or “I’ll be happy just to slide into a little back corner of heaven.” We hear things like this at funerals. “If she’s not going to heaven, none of us has a chance!”

Why? Because she’s so good? Like our salvation is somehow tied to our works?

We don’t believe that. Your salvation has never been tied to what you’re doing or not doing. Your salvation is solidly secured in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus!

You say, “I hope I’m good enough.” You’re not! You say, “I hope I’ve done enough.” You haven’t! Your salvation is in the Lord!

He meant it when he said, “It is finished.” Your deliverance from sins, your rescue from death, your salvation and eternal life — it is finished.  It is done. Not by you, no way. But by God in Christ for you. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us; not after we all became saints.

Your salvation is not about you. No matter what your feelings tell you, no matter what bad things happen to you, no matter how many times you slip and fall along the path, those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken, but endures forever.

The cross is not just something God did, it’s who he is. The cross is the essence of God’s being: God in Christ reconciling the world back to himself, personally taking care of everything that might separate you from him. Jesus doesn’t overlook or forget your brokenness and sin, he becomes a part of it. He enters into and participates in your brokenness and sin in order to heal and renew, to bring life and to overcome.

That’s the good news of the Gospel. That’s what we proclaim. And we probably don’t do it enough. I figure if the people in our church are weary or beaten down, if my brothers and sisters at Central are discouraged or tired, maybe it’s because I’m not announcing the Gospel enough. Maybe I’m talking too much about what we do and not enough about what God has done and is doing in Jesus Christ.

I don’t believe in once-saved-always-saved. But I also don’t believe in once-saved-barely-saved.

Jude 24 says our God is able to keep you from falling and will present you in his glorious presence without fault and with great joy.

Being a Christian is like living in the security of a mountain fortress in the hills of Jerusalem. All the way safe. All the way secure.

Go Mavs!

Allan

Secure in Not “Falling Away”

“Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion,
which cannot be shaken but endures forever.
As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
so the Lord surrounds his people both now and forevermore.”
~Psalm 125

Another thing that can mess with our safety and security in the Lord is the possibility of “falling away.” Backsliding, maybe. I once was lost but now I’m found. And I might get lost again.

Some Christian traditions teach “once-saved-always-saved” like it’s a non-negotiable contract. Once you say “yes” and sign on the dotted line, you can’t become a free-agent again no matter what the league commissioner rules. Well, that’s just not true. You certainly can turn away.

If God does not force you to faith in the first place, he’s not going to keep you against your will. Think about Judas. Think about Hymenaeus and Alexander. The Bible says they rejected their faith and their good conscience. They shipwrecked their salvation.

“Those who turn to crooked ways, the Lord will banish with the evildoers.” ~Psalm 125:5

So if it is possible to fall away, how do I know I haven’t? How do I know I haven’t already lost my faith, especially when my feelings are bad on the inside and bad things are happening to me on the outside?

Please, hear this. It is not possible to drift unconsciously from faith to out of favor with God. It doesn’t happen without you knowing it. It can’t. Yes, we all wander around like lost sheep, but Jesus is a faithful shepherd who pursues you relentlessly. Yes, we have our ups and downs, but he is a rock. A mountain. We do break our promises sometimes, but our Lord never breaks his. Discipleship to Jesus is not a legal contract where  if we don’t live up to our end of the dead, God is free to bail on it, too. It’s God’s covenant. God establishes the conditions and he alone guarantees the results.

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” ~John 10:28-29

How does the song go? No power of hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from his hand?

Yes, you can quit if you want to. You can say “no” to God. You can turn to the crooked way. God is not going to hang onto you against your will. But you’re never going to accidentally fall away from God or lose your salvation without knowing it. Turning away from God, losing your salvation, is a deliberate decision. In fact, we should never use the phrase “lose your salvation.” Nobody loses his or her salvation like you lose your car keys. You can give it back. You can turn your back on it. But it’s no accident or oversight. It’s a sustained, determined, on-going rejection.

1 Thessalonians 5 says the God of peace is sanctifying you through and through. He is making you holy. He is keeping you blameless. He calls you, he is faithful, and he will do what he’s promised to do. He’s the one making your salvation happen, not you.

But I’m a sinner.

All the great people of faith you know are sinners! I don’t know a single perfect Christian, do you? I’ve never met one.

Our security is not tied up in our performances. It’s grounded solidly in the faithfulness of God.

The first line in Psalm 125 says “those who trust in the Lord.” Not those who trust in their obedience or in their own righteousness.

“This is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life… I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” ~1 John 5:11-13

God wants you to be more sure of your salvation than you are. You belong to him forever.

Peace,

Allan

Secure in the Midst of Suffering

“Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion,
which cannot be shaken but endures forever.
As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
so the Lord surrounds his people both now and forevermore.”
~Psalm 125

Living as a child of God and a disciple of Jesus Christ is not like walking a tightrope without a safety net. This is not a situation in which you’re 200-feet up, trying to keep your balance, and taking extra care with every movement and twitch. A fly landing on your nose is life-threatening. People are watching you, everybody’s paying attention, some are secretly hoping you’ll crash and burn. That’s not the Christian life. It’s not a tightrope where every single step you take is a life or death deal. It’s more like sitting safely and securely inside a fortress. If you’re a Christian, you’re protected. You’re safe.

Even in your sufferings. Even when bad things happen to you. When you lose something you think you can’t live without. When your loved ones suffer pain. When you’re the victim of an injustice.

Psalm 125 says you’ll be OK because you’re surrounded by God. He’s got you. As long as the Lord is your God, you’ll be fine.

Whoever wrote Psalm 125 did not have anesthesia at the hospital, he didn’t have Tylenol or antibiotics in his medicine cabinet, and he didn’t have a government spending hundreds of billions of dollars on national defense. The writer here endured pain and suffering and threat personally and with the people around him every day. Why did that not destroy his confidence in God?

“The scepter of the wicked will not remain over the land allotted to the righteous.” ~Psalm 125:3

The wickedness won’t rest, it won’t last, it won’t stay with you permanently. The bad stuff is always temporary.

“…for then the righteous might use their hands to do evil.” ~Psalm 125:3

If the evil is permanent, if there’s no hope for deliverance, even the most faithful and devout person will break. They’ll use their own hands to do evil — it’s too much. But God never allows that to happen. The pain and the suffering are never too much for our faith.

“God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” ~1 Corinthians 10:13

At some point, at just the right time, it goes away. The bad stuff is never too much for your faith. And it’s never too much for our God.

“If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all — how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?… Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?… No! In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” ~Romans 8:31-39

Peace,

Allan

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