Psalm 25

I love the Psalms. They were songs that were written thousands of years ago by people going through times of great joy, or through some of the darkest times of their lives.

I am convinced that for any situation of life we might face, there’s a Psalm for that.

I was reading through Psalms last night, and came across Psalm 25. It is a Hebrew acrostic poem written by King David. It really seemed to resonate with me. In view of the current situations facing our country, our world, some of our friends and neighbors, some decisions we have to make soon…

Wherever you are, whatever you are going through…I hope something from this will give you comfort and encouragement today.

Blessings,

Matt

Psalm 25

A psalm of David.

O Lord, I give my life to you.
    I trust in you, my God!
Do not let me be disgraced,
    or let my enemies rejoice in my defeat.
No one who trusts in you will ever be disgraced,
    but disgrace comes to those who try to deceive others.

Show me the right path, O Lord;
    point out the road for me to follow.
Lead me by your truth and teach me,
    for you are the God who saves me.
    All day long I put my hope in you.
Remember, O Lord, your compassion and unfailing love,
    which you have shown from long ages past.
Do not remember the rebellious sins of my youth.
    Remember me in the light of your unfailing love,
    for you are merciful, O Lord.

The Lord is good and does what is right;
    he shows the proper path to those who go astray.
He leads the humble in doing right,
    teaching them his way.
10 The Lord leads with unfailing love and faithfulness
    all who keep his covenant and obey his demands.

11 For the honor of your name, O Lord,
    forgive my many, many sins.
12 Who are those who fear the Lord?
    He will show them the path they should choose.
13 They will live in prosperity,
    and their children will inherit the land.
14 The Lord is a friend to those who fear him.
    He teaches them his covenant.
15 My eyes are always on the Lord,
    for he rescues me from the traps of my enemies.

16 Turn to me and have mercy,
    for I am alone and in deep distress.
17 My problems go from bad to worse.
    Oh, save me from them all!
18 Feel my pain and see my trouble.
    Forgive all my sins.
19 See how many enemies I have
    and how viciously they hate me!
20 Protect me! Rescue my life from them!
    Do not let me be disgraced, for in you I take refuge.
21 May integrity and honesty protect me,
    for I put my hope in you.

22 O God, ransom Israel
    from all its troubles.

Gone – How Time Slips Away

I have to be honest, I got the inspiration for today’s post from The Daily Post, but it’s something that has been on my mind quite a lot lately…the lyrics to one of my favorite Willie Nelson songs.

It’s been so long now but it seems now,
That it was only yesterday.
Gee, ain’t it funny how time slips away?

The idea of time slipping away has been front and center. My oldest daughter recently turned four. My youngest turns two on Saturday.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about “should have done” and “what if’s” and how life would have turned out if some different choices had been made along the way.

Every so often I look around and wonder where the time went, only to feel lost as to where my time should go. Click to Tweet

We try so hard to plan out our lives, to control our own destiny, to organize everything just so…but then I remember the words of James.

James 4:14 – How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.

And as I have seen friends this week deal with the tragic loss of their loved one that was taken from this life far too soon, I’m reminded that we really have to make the most of every opportunity we have because we really don’t have time to waste.

So hug your loved ones a little tighter, treat others a little kinder, and don’t waste your time worrying about the things you can’t change.

Because before you know it, your time will be gone.

Radical Disrupts Place of Worship

No this isn’t a recent headline from the New York Times. It’s likely what the Jerusalem Daily Gazette would have published the morning after Jesus cleared the Temple.

There is so much we can learn from this passage, but it so rarely gets brought up in churches. Questions about this passage always pop up. “Why would Jesus do such a thing?” or “Doesn’t Jesus love everyone? Why would he cause such a scene in a place of worship?”

There are two accounts of this happening in the Bible. One recorded by Matthew, the other by John. Today we’ll look at John’s account of this event.

John 2:13-17 New Living Translation (NLT)
Jesus Clears the Temple
13 It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration, so Jesus went to Jerusalem. 14 In the Temple area he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; he also saw dealers at tables exchanging foreign money.15 Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables. 16 Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!”
17 Then his disciples remembered this prophecy from the Scriptures: “Passion for God’s house will consume me.”
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

When I was growing up, I would hear someone reference this passage the moment a fundraising catalog entered the church building. But that’s just not the context for what Jesus is reacting to here. So if you don’t want to buy that stale popcorn, you may have just lost your scriptural basis for doing so. To fully understand what Jesus was so outraged about, we have to look back into history and take a look at what it took to worship at the temple.

Ever since the temple was rebuilt by Ezra and Nehemiah, it was the national place of worship for all Jewish people. As many as 2.5 million Jews would travel vast distances to worship God in His temple on holy days! And as we all know, there’s always cost involved when traveling.

Besides the cost of travel, a Jew wishing to worship would also have other monetary demands put upon them as they arrived at the temple. The “Temple Tax” offset the cost of maintaining the temple, and was equal to 1 day’s wage. If you were traveling with a foreign currency, you must exchange your money at a rate of 2 days wages. If you brought your own animal to offer as a sacrifice, there was a fee of 1/2 days wage for someone to inspect the animal. If you failed inspection, or couldn’t afford to travel with your animal sacrifice in tow, you could normally purchase doves at the cost of 2 days wage. But in the temple courts prices had been raised to nearly 40 days wages!

If you calculate the cost in modern day figures, it would cost anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 just to worship at the temple!

These services that Jew’s had set up as a convenience to traveling worshippers had instead become a roadblock preventing the poor from being able to worship God in his temple, all the while lining the pockets of the religious leaders. No wonder Jesus was upset!

It’s stunning to think that something which started out so noble by aiding God’s people in worship turned out to be just the opposite. God’s people lots sight of what they were doing, and what they were causing to happen around them.

Question: What sort of things stand in the way of worshippers today, and what can we do as the Church to remove those obstacles?

Proposition 8: How Christians have messed up big time!

The Supreme Court of the United StatesThis week the Supreme Court began hearing arguments in the Hollingsworth v. Perry case (aka. Proposition 8, aka. Legalizing Gay Marriage). Many feel this is a political issue while others feel it’s a deeply religious issue, but for certain it’s a very divisive issue.  Many Christians have been accused of hate and bigotry at every turn for opposing gay marriage, but that’s not the reason Christians (or at least the ones I know) oppose gay marriage! It’s because of love.  Let me explain.

To make sure we’re all starting with the same information let’s discuss what’s at issue. Proposition 8 was placed on the ballot and passed in 2008 as an amendment to the state constitution of California which stated that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”  A ballot amendment is where the voters of the state of California voted according to their majority values that they wanted their state to recognize marriage as only between a man and woman.  Any legal resident of the state of California had the right to vote on this amendment and it passed.  Therefore, the majority population of the state of California believes in the “traditional” view of marriage.

Also at issue is the Defense of Marriage Act which was drafted and passed by the 104th United States Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996.  The main point of the law reads as follows:

Section 2. Powers reserved to the states No State, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship.

Section 3. Definition of marriage In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.

Proponents for gay marriage want basically two things. 1) To have Proposition 8 ruled unconstitutional in the state of California, 2) A Federal ruling legalizing gay marriage nationwide (similar to the Roe vs. Wade ruling) and giving them “equal protection” under the law for the same rights as heterosexual married couples.

I do not support gay marriage and it’s not because I’m a homophobe, a bigot, or that I hate some group of people…it’s quite the opposite.  Look at what the Bible says:

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 NIV – Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

There are several other verses I could reference, but this verse sums up all others very nicely.  First of all this passage very clearly states that “men who have sex with men” (or homosexuals) will not inherit the kingdom of God.  Is the Apostle Paul trying to single out homosexuals and turn them into some sort of unforgivable monsters out to destroy everyone? NO!  Notice who else he points out, the sexually immoral (anyone who has sex outside of a marriage between a man and a woman!), thieves, greedy people, drunks, slanderers, and swindlers!  Paul isn’t singling out homosexual behavior as unforgivable…quite to the contrary! He indicates in verse 11 that the Christians in Corinth used to be involved in the very same sins he listed, and they had been forgiven!

I do not stand in opposition of gay marriage because I hate gay people.  I don’t!  Paul didn’t stand in opposition to the practice of homosexuality because he hated gay people.  He didn’t!  God doesn’t forbid homosexuality because he hates gay people.  He doesn’t!  In fact God sent his only son, Jesus, to die for the gays, the straights, the drunks, the sober, the murderers, the peace keepers, the adulterers, the faithful spouses, the liars, the honest…you see my point.  Jesus died for all so that all people everywhere, regardless of their past failures, could be saved!  And until Christians fully understand this, embrace this, and live this, and share this fundamental truth of our faith we will be misunderstood by many as homophobic and hateful people.  In large part, we Christians haven’t been doing a good enough job of sharing the love of Christ with others, and we must fix that problem NOW!

I have had very good friends in my life who were alcoholics.  I love those friends and care about them, so much so that I don’t support their drinking.  It’s bad for them…it hurts them whether they see it or not.  God tells us that it hurts them spiritually and that sin separates them from a right relationship with God.  That’s the worst part of drunkenness!

I have had very good friends in my life who were gay.  I love those friends and care about them, so much so that I don’t support their homosexual lifestyle.  It’s bad for them…it hurts them whether they see it or not.  God tells us that it hurts them spiritually and that sin separates them from a right relationship with God.  That’s the worst part of homosexuality!

1 Timothy 2:3-6 NIV – This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time.

So there it is.  Christians love others and wish for them to do what is right in the eyes of God.  We’re imperfect people trying to live out and teach others a message of perfection…and that’s pretty difficult to do!  Do we always get it right?  No.  Are there some Christians that come across as hateful?  Unfortunately, yes.  Does that mean that we are all hateful people?  Not at all!

Christians have truly messed up big time in spreading the message of the Gospel!  When people feel the reason we don’t support something is because of hate towards other people, they don’t understand the love of Christ, and that’s our fault!  We must show the love of Christ to all people at all times and in all situations, while remaining faithful to God’s commands.  Let’s get to work!

What are some ways you feel Christians could do a better job in showing the love of Christ to others?

Zephaniah

Sometimes when we’re faced with grief, or distress, or abuse, persecution, looming punishment and the like, we develop a feeling of hopelessness. When those situations evolve we often feel completely surrounded, as if there’s no way out. If only there were something to give us hope, then we’d be alright…if only.

Zephaniah was a prophet who’s ministry came to an end just six years after Jeremiah’s began.  And God’s people at the time had just come out of being under the rule of two very evil kings, Manasseh and Amon. And as we too often see, corrupt rulers corrupt their people.  God’s people had become very wicked themselves during this time and had turned their backs on God’s will.  The situation gets more interesting when we learn that they knew they had drifted away…they knew they had major problems, and they had lost hope.  And into this mix comes Zephaniah preaching a message of repentance and hope.

Zephaniah 2:3 – Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the LORD’s anger.

Zephaniah called the people to repent, and the people knew that God would eventually bless them, but Zephaniah made it clear that there would be judgement first, then blessing.  Our actions do cause us to face consequences. Sometimes even after we have repented, we still must deal with the consequences of our past actions against God, and that’s what happened to Judah.  They would see Judah fall to the Babylonians in 586 BC, but the good news is that they did repent!  And as a result they had hope for the future.  They were able to weather the storm, the destruction, and the hard times because they had hope in God’s promise to bless them for their repentance and righteous living!

Zephaniah 3:14,17 – Sing, O Daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O Daughter of Jerusalem! … 17 The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.

There is a lot to be learned from the small book of Zephaniah.  God does not take sin lightly, and it will be punished.  But we can take hope from the words of Zephaniah because our God reigns, and he will rescue the faithful remnant of his people who worship him, and obey his Word.

Actions

I saw a sign recently at a school that made me stop and think.  So much so that I had to take a picture.

“Do your actions reflect what you say your goals are?”  That’s a great, and very deep question that applies to many areas of our lives.  It also raises so many more questions that I have to ask myself from time to time.  I thought I’d take a minute and share a few with you.

Spiritual: Am I walking daily as Christ calls me to?

Matthew 7:15-20 –  15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

This passage always gets me wondering…do people view me as a good tree, or a bad tree?  How does God view my fruit?  After all, he is the chief fruit inspector.  Do my actions always show others I am a Christian?  If a film crew followed me around for a day without me knowing they were watching, would those viewing the tape know I was a Christian from my actions?

Professional: Is my career where I truly want it to be?  If not, what can I do to make my goal a reality?  Am I working toward my dream job/professional goals, or am I endlessly spinning my wheels while claiming that I’m “trying” to reach them? (Thanks Tyler for the heads-up on “trying!”)

Relational: Am I truly doing the things I need to do every day to be a good friend to others?  Am I constantly working to improve my relationship with my wife?  Am I working toward being a better husband? A better friend?  A better co-worker?

Financial:  Am I sticking to my financial plan? Am I managing my money in a way that honors God, provides for my family, and plans for my future?  Am I constantly making frivolous purchases while there are still financial commitments that need to be met?  Am I truly doing all I can to get out of debt and change my family tree?

There are many other topics and questions that I could mention, but I won’t do that here.  I can’t say that I answer all of these questions perfectly all the time, but they are questions that constantly run through my mind to help guide my decisions.  The tricky part isn’t asking the questions, or really answering them.  It’s making adjustments and corrections as needed once the answers have been given.

“Do your actions reflect what you say your goals are?”

What are some of your goals, and how can you change your actions to accomplish them?

Grand Opening

Many people wonder why God doesnʼt send big, visual, miracles our way anymore. They read about people speaking in tongues, miraculous healing, casting out demons, and they wonder why God seems so distant. We read about the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Why are none of us recipients of the miraculous empowerment of the Holy Spirit? Why isnʼt God allowing his people to perform miracles here and now? Well, we can find out in the book of Hebrews.

Hebrews 2:3b-4 – This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

According to the writer of Hebrews, God used signs, wonders, miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit as a way of testifying that his son, Jesus, did in fact bring salvation to those who chose to obey him. The signs were a way for God to indicate to humans that this shift in the way of doing things was divinely orchestrated! Simply put, God was using the empowerment of the Holy Spirit and the miracles kind of like a grand opening at a new store. Letʼs say that a store that has been around for quite a while is purchased by some new owners, and they come in and renovate. Of course they want everyone to know about the changes, so they do this by having a big grand opening where they give away prizes, and do big and very showy things to alert the people of the changes. Now the grand opening doesnʼt last forever, and it doesnʼt need to. Thereʼs no reason for you to have a grand opening several years after the fact because it serves a purpose, and then itʼs no longer needed. The same is true with the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, and miracles in Godʼs church.

These people were so used to the Old Testament way of doing things that when Godʼs people were bought by the blood of Christ, and they were now under new ownership, God wanted to get the message out. He had a grand opening with all kinds of wonderful and very visual miracles, healings and the like that announced to the world once and for all that a new way of doing things was here. Out with the old covenant (or old testament) and in with the new covenant (or new testament)! So what about us today? We donʼt need the grand opening. Instead, we need to be looking forward to the time when the store gets relocated into itʼs permanent location in Heaven. Until then, we are the word of mouth. We are the means by which Godʼs church keeps growing and developing new members.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.