Monday, September 23, 2013

A new Heart for a new day Psalm 51:10-12

The great King David had fallen into sin with Bathsheba and Nathan the Prophet confronted him sternly.  At this point David had several choices in how he, the King would respond.   He could have denied it.  He could have made excuses for his actions blaming the situation.  He could have cried, "I'm the King, I get what I want!"  He could have done any of those things.

  In our day we have seen these types of reactions over and over haven't we.  Why just last week a football player talked about how it was difficult for him to tell that he was driving so fast because he had a fast car and there wasn't much difference between 60 miles an hour and 90.  Frankly I'm not sure what kind of car he's driving but regardless I think there's a huge difference between those speeds.  Such excuses don't generally impress the police or the head coach.

David however chose another response.  He humbly accepted responsibility for his actions.  Such humility is difficult but when a prophet calls you out there's not much else to do.   Following his confession and his time of mourning David addresses the Lord again this time for mercy.  He knew God had every right to punish him, which the Lord would do, but David sought after the heart of God and asked for a redue.   In our text he asks, " Restore to me the Joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me."

David understood that he needed a new start and a new heart.  He needed a pure heart.  He needed the Holy Spirit within him.  He needed a willing heart or spirit to sustain him.  Without this transformation on the inside he knew that he was hopeless.   David knew his old heart and it wasn't very pretty.   David was a smart man.   He didn't just ask for forgiveness and then try his best to be good with the help of his old heart.   No he needed forgiveness and he needed a new heart.   Without the new heart David was destined for future failure just as I'm sure our football friend will soon be speeding Cleveland's highways at 90 miles an hour plus in the near future.

What about you?  What sins entangle you?  Do you simply ask for God's forgiveness every time or have you cried out for a new pure heart empowered by the Spirit of God. 
  If you want true freedom it starts with a new heart.  A heart filled with the joy that existed at our salvation.  

Monday, September 16, 2013

Taste and see that the Lord is good. Psalm 34:8

Psalm 34: 8  "Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him."

I just love the imagery used by Old Testament writers.  It reflects the Eastern way of thinking that calls upon the senses, images and analogies to express important truths.  Instead of saying that the Lord takes care of us Scripture says, "The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want." Psalm 23:1

  Instead of saying that God is dependable and faithful Scripture cries out, "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."  Psalm 18:2

Instead of saying that those who read and obey the Law of the Lord will be blessed Scripture proclaims, "He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.  Whatever he does prospers."  Psalm 1:2

So it is that we are encourage to taste and see that the Lord is good.

There is nothing more memorable then the sense of taste.   My guess is that if I would tell you the names of certain Pizza restaurants you could remember the distinct taste of each one even if you haven't had that pizza in many years.   I can still remember or "taste" the Big Red Tomato pizza that I had with my roommates in College.  But it's not just the good tastes we remember because I can still remember the taste of hominy that we used to eat when I was growing up.  Yes our taste buds are powerful senses sometimes for good and other times.... not so good.  

There is also something very intimate about tasting.  Think about it isn't this the reason we love to take our dates out to eat wonderful foods.   The taste adds to the intimacy of the experience.   Having friends over for instance is that much more joyful and yes intimate when we share and taste wonderful foods together.  Some have even equated eating chocolate to some of the most intimate of experiences.

In addition when we taste or eat something we make a commitment of ourselves.  When I go to the market I "see"  lots of different foods.  I might even "smell" quite a few of them but it is an entirely different thing to sink my teeth into the food.   Usually the first thing we do is to use our eyes to see if something looks appealing.  With some foods we might actually squeeze them to see if they are fresh.  Others we will smell and if a food passes all those tests we make the commitment to buy the food and further commit ourselves to taste and eat it.   Which by the way when it comes to food eating it is the only true test to see if we like something or not.

For this reason it only makes sense that David requests that we "Taste and see" or that we taste and see for ourselves that he Lord is good! 

Today I encourage you to enjoy intimacy with the Lord.  Go beyond simply seeing and considering God.  Taste and see! Fully devour God in the same way you might enjoy a sirloin steak at Applebee's. Taste and see that the Lord is good!  Trust the Lord and be blessed as you take refuge in God!  After you have truly tasted God's goodness you'll ever forget it and you'll surely have no regrets.

These are the lessons we learn as we walk through the Word together.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Guardians of God's wonderful creation

I'm not sure about you but I have surely enjoyed many of the beautiful days this past summer.  I even enjoyed today which is just a little cooler but what a reminder of the wonderful fall which is to come.

As I type from by back porch I here the crickets chirping and the birds singing and I'm watching as the rays of the setting sun glisten through the trees. This morning I saw two wonderful deer in my back yard and I always enjoy the scurrying of black and gray squirrels.  Today we picked up apples, apple cider, pumpkins, candy, green beans and cheese from our favorite orchard store.   And when I look up into the heavens.  They are deep blue with hardly a cloud in the sky.

Indeed as David would say,

"When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?"  Psalm 8:3,4 
Yet God is mindful of us!  God loves us! 
I think that its safe to say that the beauty of this creation was given for us to enjoy but also to care for and to not take for granted.
Speaking again of humans David proclaims,
 5"You have made them a little lower than the angels
    and crowned them with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
    you put everything under their feet:
all flocks and herds,
    and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky,
    and the fish in the sea,
    all that swim the paths of the seas." (Psalm 8:5-8)
This by no means is a license to do whatever we want as "Lords" over the animals and creation.  God didn't put them under our feet to stomp on them.  Rather we are to love God's creation just as God loves us and cares for us.  This is a Divine mystery.  
Much has been said over the last 10 years about global warming or climate change.   Those who believe in this idea would claim that we have abused our rights as custodians of this planet and are in the process of destroying our atmosphere.   Frankly I believe that this is a little arrogant of us to think that we have the power to alter something so humongous as the atmosphere which God has put into place. In addition depending on the experts it seems like there is little agreed upon evidence to support it.  What we see in my opinion is the natural cycle of the weather which has gone on for Thousands of years.  Some might say for millions of years.  
But with that said I do believe in being kind to our planet.  I think recycling is a good idea both environmentally, and morally.  I believe we shouldn't be wasteful of our recourses which has caused the destruction of some of our rain forests.  And surely pollution during the 20th century had adverse effects on our environment and the health of countless people.   Yes,there needs to be balance and conservation.  It concerns me that we are such a throw away society and our landfills are pilling up with bottles, can's and Hamburger rappers.  
Sadly we throw away relationships just as easily sometimes.  Yet, God has been mindful of us.  God has been faithful to preserve us and give Jesus to die for us!  Surely as care takers of this planet we can help to keep it healthy and beautiful without going to the extreme.   
All of creation is in this together!  It's a gift to beheld and managed. 
Like David, we should shake our heads in disbelief that God has given us the privilege of enjoying it and taking care of it.  That's just one more wonderful aspect of God's grace and Glory.
Yes,  How majestic is your name in all the earth!  
but I better end this blog now before I get eaten up by the mosquito's!

Monday, September 9, 2013

What amazes you the most? Psalm 8

David is absolutely amazed at the glory and Majesty of God which is above all things.

David is absolutely amazed at God's creation:  The heavens which are the works of God's hands and the moon and stars that reflect His great glory!

But what perhaps amazed David most of all is that with all this glory,God looked upon us as just a little lower than the heavenly beings. This is more accurately translated that God made us a little lower than God himself and God crowned him with glory and honor.

This was shocking to David because he knew the sin of human kind and his own sin.  With this in mind God could have cast us aside and destroyed us if not for his grace.  Yet instead of casting us aside God gave his son Jesus to die for our sins and redeem us.   But it goes deeper than that.  Through his death we find forgiveness which is wonderful but the fact that we are restored to the position of Glory is unbelievable.

David repeats the same thought in Psalm 103:2-4 "Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits; who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion."

To ponder:  When's the last time you stopped to consider God's glory?
When is the last time you considered your own sinfulness and wondered, "Why does God put up with me?"
  When is the last time that you considered that not only does God forgive your sin but he seats you with him in glory?  When is the last time that you said thank you to God for his grace?

In this world of science and reason may we never lose the wonder of God's creation, God's love and God's grace.

Friday, September 6, 2013

A great leader starts with prayer: Nehemiah 1:5

It's one thing to mourn over a problem.  It's yet another thing to actually do something about it.

Nehemiah mourned over the broken walls of Jerusalem,  He prayed. He fasted.  He pleaded with God.  But he didn't pray that God would send just anyone he prayed that God would open the door so he could go.  He prayed that he would find favor in the eyes of the King so he would be allowed to go and lead the effort to rebuild the walls. 

In Nehemiah's prayer to God, he reminds God of his goodness and love.  He says, O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants the people of Israel." Nehemiah 1:5

I'm not sure that God needed the reminder of his great love but I'm sure that God loved to hear these words from a man of faith!  Surely the truth of these words reveal to us that Nehemiah's prayer was according to God's will. 

In the first Chapter of Nehemiah we learn that Nehemiah is the cup bearer to the King of Assyria.   As a cup bearer he bring the wine to the king and test the wine to make sure that it was not poisoned.  This was an important job and the life of the King depended upon Nehemiah.

Aside from the divine intervention of God it would have been very unlikely that the kings would allow Nehemiah to leave  but not only did the king allow him to go.  The king was willing to send him men, lumber, and a traveling visa giving Nehemiah his personal seal of approval.  You might say that God answered his prayer in a big way!

Yes, if you read the book of Nehemiah you will see the heart of a great leader with a huge vision and even tremendous faith and to complete the package we see that Nehemiah was a great man of great courage. 

But with all of these qualities in Nehemiah's favor his greatest asset was his prayer life.  Yes Nehemiah has obvious leadership qualities but no matter how great a leader you might be God is the one who ultimately brings about success.

Sadly we live in a day where leaders are a dime a dozen but prayer warriors are few to be found.

 To ponder:  What role does prayer play in your life as a leader?  If you're success is in direct proportion to your prayers what kind of results should you expect?

Let us all be thankful that God uses us and helps us to be successful by his grace even when we don't always pray as we should but better yet why don't we determine to make prayer a priority in our leadership in the church, in our home or in the work place.   These are the lessons we learn together as we walk through the Word together.