Category: Psalms (Page 2 of 13)

Help and Hope

“Do not put your trust in princes,
in mortal men, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
on that very day their plans come to nothing.

Blessed is the one whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord our God,
the Maker of Heaven and Earth, the sea, and everything in them –
the Lord, who remains faithful forever.”

~Psalm 146

Commit Your Way to the Lord

We just finished preaching through Naomi and Ruth’s story here at Central as a way to visualize moving into 2021 with our God and with one another. It’s easy for us to relate to these two widow ladies because they suffered great loss during the days of the judges, when the social and political landscape was an absolute mess, and they were dealing with a famine, a national natural disaster that was causing the death of many people. Tough times. Feels familiar.

When Naomi details her plan for their financial and familial security in Ruth chapter three, Ruth replies, “I will do whatever you say.” That reminds me of the first time God gathered his people together at Mt. Sinai and gave them his commands. The people all responded together, “Everything the Lord has said, we will do!” That’s what Mary, the mother of Jesus, told the angel Gabriel: “May it be to me as you have said.” That’s what Jesus said to our Father on that last night in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Not my will, but yours be done.”

It seems like the correct response to a powerful line in Psalm 37: “Commit your way to the Lord; trust him and he will do this.”

And that seems like the best way to live in 2021.

Ruth and Naomi and Boaz each had their own struggles, their own issues. But in the middle of their own problems they showed an uncommonly selfless love for one another. Each one showed extraordinary care and concern for the other two. And they had plenty of differences between them. There were background and culture and nationality differences, gender and language and social status differences — a lot of differences here with a lot of stress and pressure on top. There’s plenty of room for disagreements and arguments here. Selfish behavior would be understandable, it would be expected and probably excused. But they each show this incredible compassion for the other two, even at great personal risk.

And God moves them and he moves their story from famine to harvest, from emptiness to fullness, from hopelessness to promise, and from devastating death to everlasting life. That’s how it happens. When we trust him and his ways, God makes it happen.

Our God has already inaugurated the new creation through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus has been raised and exalted, he is seated at the right hand of the heavenly Father in eternal glory where he reigns supreme today and forever. That assures you and me that death will be destroyed, that creation will be redeemed, and that God’s people will be restored to righteous relationship with him and with one another forever. All of that is happening right now and you and I are the instruments of that transforming work. Through us, the Kingdom of God breaks into the world for healing and reconciliation and justice and peace. Christ’s Church is a witness and a community that embodies the Kingdom of God as present and real. We are participating in God’s everything new and we are a sign of God’s everything new. We are both the promise and the presence.

Just like he works in Naomi and Ruth and Boaz, we trust the Lord is working in us and through us to still make amazing things happen. God is still at work when parents make sacrifices for their children and when children go out of their way for their parents. God is still at work when strangers open up their doors and their hearts and their lives to other strangers. When people cross the barriers of race and culture and class without a second thought, when people rise up to defend and protect the marginalized, when we move to understand instead of accuse, when we love and forgive and accept first, when we put the needs of others ahead of our own — God will move you and he will move this world from emptiness to fullness, from division and violence to unity and peace, and from darkness and death to everlasting light and life.

I am confident that he who began a good work in you and in this world will carry it on to completion until the day of our Lord Jesus. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this.



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.


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.


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!


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