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September 2015
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November 2015

Life Matter - Your Creativity

"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures forever" - Psalm 136:1.

Psalm 136 was obviously a song used during corporate Temple worship. The leader would probably sing the first line and the people would respond with the second line throughout the entire psalm. Someone had to compose this psalm, expressing his creativity as He was led by the Spirit of God. You also have creativity that God wants you to express just like Adam did when he named the animals: "Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals" (Genesis 2:19-20). God did not whisper those names to Adam, nor did He "lay them on his heart or mind." God directed Adam's work, but Adam produced those names as an expression of his God-given creativity. Are you expressing your creativity, whether it be to write, sing, paint, rhyme, sculpt, or dance? Is your creativity some other activity not listed on that list? Do you see whatever it is as a divine assignment? How can you develop and release it more regularly and effectively?

Today's reading - Psalms 136-140


Life Matter - Signs Are for Unbelievers

"He struck down the firstborn of Egypt,
    the firstborn of people and animals.
He sent his signs and wonders into your midst, Egypt,
    against Pharaoh and all his servants" - Psalm 135:8-9.

Right before Israel left Egypt for good, the Lord unleashed the last of the plagues, which was the death of each firstborn creature in the land (except for Israel, of course). This convinced the Egyptians to finally release the Israelites to journey toward their Promised Land, but the plague did not turn the Egyptians' hearts to serve the Lord. That is a curious thing, for God proved His reality and power to them, but they did not believe. Many people have said, maybe even you, that if you had some kind of sign, then you would believe God was speaking to you. In most cases, God performs signs for the unbeliever to prove that He is real or that He is speaking to them. Yet, they can be so steeped in unbelief that they miss the message altogether! The same can happen to you. It is not faith that demands or looks for a sign, but unbelief, and still the sign is absolutely no guarantee that you will respond in faith. Where in your life are you waiting for sign that, even if it came, may not move you to action? Can you see that the problem is not God's lack of confirmation, but your fear and lack of trust? Perhaps today you stop holding God's purpose for your life hostage, demanding a sign in return for its release?

Today's reading - Psalms 131-135


Life Matter - Persecution

"Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy on us,
    for we have endured no end of contempt.
We have endured no end
    of ridicule from the arrogant,
    of contempt from the proud" - Psalm 123:3-4.

The theme of persecution runs through the book of Psalms, as it does throughout the New Testament, especially in the last book of Revelation. God's people can never make peace with this world, for this world's values are totally opposed to the values and principles of God's kingdom. Some withdraw from the world because of the tension, yet some try to fit into and become friends with the world's ways. James warned against the latter strategy when he wrote, "You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us?" (James 4:4-5). Where have you cuddled up and gotten cozy with the world? Where are you trying to avoid inevitable persecution from or a confrontation with the world system? In what situation have you hoped what Paul wrote would not be true: "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Timothy 3:12)?

Today's reading - Psalms 121-125


Life Matter - Victory in Oppression

“'They have greatly oppressed me from my youth,'
    let Israel say;
'they have greatly oppressed me from my youth,
    but they have not gained the victory over me'" - Psalm 129:1-2.

Keep in mind that the psalms were edited into their current order - and a few of them were written - when Israel was in Babylonian exile. There they were subjected to ridicule and idolatrous customs. Yet the Babylonians did not break their spirit. Perhaps you are in a bad ministry or job situation with a cruel overseer, or you may be facing oppression from some other source. How can you keep that from gaining the victory over you? First, exercise forgiveness, even if it means forgiving your oppressor(s) on a daily basis! Second, keep your commitment to the Lord strong; don't blame or be angry with Him over your situation. Third, have hope and remember your past, and live in the reality that God is with you and will one day make things right. Fourth, keep in mind that God is an avenger, and He will one day give to your oppressors as they deserve. Fifth, you want to pray for mercy for your oppressor(s) so that you can also receive mercy from God. Finally, read Daniel's story in Daniel 1-6 to learn from how he handled his own Babylonian exile, for there you will see that while he was a prisoner, he always had the victory, even over his conquerors.

Today's reading - Psalms 126-130


Life Matter - Get Ready

"When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord;
    he brought me into a spacious place" - Psalm 118:5.

The psalmist was in a tough place, perhaps hemmed in by circumstances, enemies or his own limitations. He cried to the Lord and God not only heard him but also removed the limitations and put him in a place where he could grow. God is able to change your fortunes overnight, as the Lord spoke that He would do in Isaiah: "'Sing, barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,' says the Lord. 'Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes'" (Isaiah 54:1-2). Where have you felt limited and restricted? Can you see that God is going to bless and prosper you, and that you need to get ready today for the blessings today, before they actually appear? Can you thank God for your breakthrough today, even though it is on its way and hasn't arrived yet?  Think of it as a big shipment of furniture that is on its way to you, and you need to start making room and rearranging things now before it arrives. Get ready, for your blessing time is on its way - in fact, it's already here.

Today's reading - Psalms 116-120


Life Matter - Optimist or Pessimist?

"Surely the righteous will never be shaken;
    they will be remembered forever.
They will have no fear of bad news;
    their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord" - Psalm 112:6-7.

When you put your trust in the Lord, you should have optimism for life that is based on God's faithfulness and steadfastness. it is not an optimism that emanates from your trust in the economy, your company, or the reliability of other people. It is a confidence in the Lord Himself. The opposite of optimism is pessimism, and that brings an outlook on life that expects the worst instead of the best. The problem is that optimists and pessimists have a tendency to fulfill their own expectations, so that expecting the worst often delivers it. Today's passage speaks to fact that the righteous will not fear bad news. That doesn't mean bad news doesn't come; it simply means you are not looking for it with every unexpected phone call, message that the boss wants to meet with you or expectation that someone you like or even love is going to reject you. Paul was confident and optimistic as he explained in 2 Corinthians 3:4-5: "Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God." Have you trained yourself to be pessimistic, to expect the worst so you won't be disappointed? Do you see that it is possible that when you expect the worst, you create the environment for the worst to happen? Can you also see that you learned to be pessimistic, and that means you can learn to be optimistic?

Today's reading - Psalms 111-115


Life Matter - Fruitful Fields

"He turned rivers into a desert,
    flowing springs into thirsty ground,
and fruitful land into a salt waste,
    because of the wickedness of those who lived there" - Psalm 107-33-34.
 
God has created all things to bear fruit as we read in Genesis, fruit that was according to "their kind" (see Genesis 1:22, 24, 28). In fact, today's passage tells us that God has to intervene to stop the fruitfulness process, and He intervenes when there is wickedness - some criteria that is not being met for the fruit to come forth. Therefore, if you are not bearing fruit, something has happened to stop your productivity that God has programmed you to bear. Jesus referred to the fruit-bearing process in John 15: 5-8: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples." In what area of life do you bear 'much fruit'? Can you describe your fruit? What does it look like? If you are not bearing fruit, where have you cut yourself off from Jesus who is your source of productivity? You can examine what has led to this lack, but in most cases, it is fear that has caused your vine to shrivel and led to your barren fields.
 
Today's reading - Psalms 106-110

Life Matter - Rebuilding

"For the Lord will rebuild Zion
    and appear in his glory.
He will respond to the prayer of the destitute;
    he will not despise their plea" - Psalm 102:16-17.

Perhaps you are facing something in your life that was damaged or destroyed through sin, negligence or through the uncertainties of life. Maybe your business failed, or a relationship ended that you valued. You could have had a ministry setback or an investment go wrong in which you made a significant deposit. It's even possible that your own sin has caused the ruin of those closest to you. Today's passage speaks to God's role as a Rebuilder, who will respond to your plea for help and partner with you to restore that which was lost, stolen or broken. Even Samson, who made such a mess of his life, was granted a second chance after his hair was cut and his strength lost: "But the hair on his head began to grow again after it had been shaved. . . Then Samson prayed to the Lord, 'Sovereign Lord, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes'" (Judges 16:22, 28). God heard Samson and his strength and purpose were restored. Are you facing a rebuilding job in some area of your life? Then embrace the task with enthusiasm and ask the God who has restored what was lost for so many to help you restore your lost world. It's never too late.

Today's reading - Psalms 101-105


Life Matter - Joy Commanded

"Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes,
    he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
    and the peoples in his faithfulness" - Psalm 96:13.

The key word in today's verse is joy, and it seems out of place, for this verse talks about the Lord coming to judge the earth and the world. Yet while He judges the world with a stern standard, He also judges His people with faithfulness, and that is good news worth joyfully celebrating. It is of note that the Lord commanded His people to rejoice when they came into His presence for the annual festivals as reported in Deuteronomy 16:14-15: "Be joyful at your festival—you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites, the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns. For seven days celebrate the festival to the Lord your God at the place the Lord will choose. For the Lord your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete." Is your joy complete? Do you come into God's presence with gladness or sadness of heart? Do you see that joy is a command? That means it is within your power to control, especially when you approach God and His relationship with you. What can do to turn on the joy spigot today to let your joy flow freely?

Today's reading - Psalms 96-100


Life Matter - Assumptions

"They say, 'The Lord does not see;
    the God of Jacob takes no notice'" - Psalm 94:7.

When God is silent, people come to one of two conclusions or assumptions, both of which are erroneous and dangerous. The first is that He doesn't see what's going on, which is ludicrous. The other is that He agrees with what's going on, which may or may not be true. The Lord Himself addressed the second conclusion in Psalm 50:21: "When you did these things and I kept silent, you thought I was exactly like you. But I now arraign you and set my accusations before you." The first conclusion is addressed by Paul: "Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?" (Romans 2:4). Have you been misinterpreting God's silence? Do you mistake His hesitancy to judge your attitude or behavior for His approval of who you are or what you do? Do you assume that God thinks like you and has the same "opinions"? Ask the Lord to point out to you where you may be reaching one of these wrong conclusions and then make the necessary course corrections.

Today's reading - Psalms 91-95