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April 2015
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Life Matter: Our, Not My

"He remembered us in our low estate
His love endures forever.
and freed us from our enemies.
His love endures forever" - Psalm 136:23-24.

This psalm was probably part of the Temple worship, for it sings of "our" and not "my." There must be a time when you come together with God's people for everyone to celebrate their life in Christ that has set them free from sin and death. Yet it is easy to become disillusioned, even bitter, with the church, its members and leadership. That is never an excuse, however, to shun gathering for worship on the Lord's Day or any other time when the church assembles. Paul had to address a dysfunctional church situation in Corinth, but his answer was not to stay home: "In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk" (1 Corinthians 11:17-21). Have you allowed the church's problems to keep you from attending? Can you see that these problems were present 2,000 years ago and the answer is not to withdraw but to find a place where you can worship and celebrate as believers your life in Christ?

Today's reading - Psalms 136-140

Life Matter: Self-Denial

"Lord, remember David and all his self-denial" - Psalm 132:1.

David was God's chosen and anointed one. That did not exempt him, however, from some serious tribulation and challenges, some of them his fault, but most of them opposition that helped develop and shape David into an even more effective leader. In today's verse, the psalmist commended David to the Lord's attention, reminding the Lord of all David had been through, which the writer described as "self-denial." Self-denial is a way of life for the believer, for self is the greatest obstacle any believer has in his or her walk of holiness. Jesus knew this and urged His followers to make this self-denial not something that happened to them but something they did to themselves: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me" (Mark 8:34). Where can you do a better job of self-denial? Listening to others when you want to talk about yourself? Interrupting your schedule for someone in need? What other ways can you think of where you can improve in that particular practice?

Today's reading - Psalms 131-135

Life Matter: Ask Forgiveness

"If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
    Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
    so that we can, with reverence, serve you" - Psalm 130:3-4.

God is in the sin forgiveness business, which is of course good news for all mankind. Today's verses imply several things. First, the Lord does not keep a record of sins. Once He forgives, He forgets as well, and does not keep a cumulative record. Second, if that is how the Lord keeps records, then you should, too. Third, you should keep the same kind of records for others, which means once they ask forgiveness, you should let it go and not keep it fresh. Fourth, there is an aspect of forgiveness that is tied to asking, so you need to ask others and the Lord to forgive you when you sin. Paul instructed believers to examine themselves before they ate of the Lord's table to see if there were any sins they needed to deal with before eating: "So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup" (1 Corinthians 11:27-28). Do you need to take care of any sin business with the Lord or with others to obtain forgiveness?

Today's reading - Psalms 126-130

Life Matter: On Duty

"He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep" - Psalm 121:3-4.

God is always on duty, so to speak, and He never has to take a break to refresh or rest. That means you can be off duty and entrust things to Him while you are. That is easier said than done, however, for you cannot see God at work, so the temptation is to stay on duty, so to speak, through worry, sleepless nights, playing the lottery, telling others your troubles, and many other forms of taking matters into your own hands. Both Jesus and Paul modeled what today's passage suggests when they were asleep while the boat they were in was being battered by storms: "Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, 'Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!' He replied, 'You of little faith, why are you so afraid?' Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm" (Matthew 8:24-26). Is your boat going through a storm? Are you frantically rowing to save it or are you calmly trusting the Master of the waves and wind to fulfill what He promised in Psalm 121? Have you learned to trust even when the circumstances around you are tumultuous?

Today's reading - Psalms 121-125

Life Matter: Discipline

"The Lord has chastened me severely,
    but he has not given me over to death" - Psalm 118:18.

God is your Father, and one thing that all fathers should do is discipline their children. In today's verse, the psalmist indicated his discipline had been quite severe. This brings to mind the passage in Hebrews 12:8-11, which has this to say about discipline: "Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." Is God disciplining you? Have you lost sight of your need for discipline because you have walked with Him for a while? Can you joyfully submit to God's training at this point in your life?

Today's reading - Psalms 116-120

Life Matter: Transformed Through Worship

"Those who make them will be like them,
    and so will all who trust in them" - Psalm 115:8.

The "them" in this verse are idols and the warning is a sobering one. Those who make idols will become just like "them." What is an idol like? It depends on what that idol is, but the scary aspect of this truth is the transforming affect of the idol that comes through worship. The good thing is that you will become more like the Lord if you worship Him, but if you direct that need to worship to anything or anyone else, you are transformed in the wrong way. John Calvin stated that man's heart is an idol factory and he was correct. We can make idols of our looks, money, job, intellect, hobbies, denomination, children, heritage, government, or ideology, just to name a few. The Bible is clear on how to relate to idolatry: "Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry" (1 Corinthians 10:14). Do you have any idols in your life that rival your affection and worship of God? There is only one thing to do if you have any, and that is destroy them now or risk the wrong kind of transformation.

Today's reading - Psalms 111-115

Life Matter: Response to Thirst

"By the waters of Meribah they angered the Lord,
    and trouble came to Moses because of them;
for they rebelled against the Spirit of God,
    and rash words came from Moses’ lips" - Psalm 116:32-33.

This reference is to the story in Exodus 17:1-7 when the people grumbled against the Lord and complained to Moses because they were thirsty. They demanded that Moses give them water because they wanted their leader to provide for all their needs. This was an unrealistic demand and, what's more, the Lord had proved He would provide, yet the people did not believe or remember. If you are experiencing lack, are you blaming the leadership of your company, school or church for your problems? If you are a leader, are you trying to do more for the people than you can really do? Or, if you are a leader, are you angry with the people instead of taking their demands and complaints to the Lord for His direction and counsel, as Moses did? What is the Lord trying to teach you in the midst of your life situation where there is no water?

Today's reading - Psalms 116-120

Life Matter: What a Difference A Day Can Make

"He brought out Israel, laden with silver and gold,
    and from among their tribes no one faltered.
Egypt was glad when they left,
    because dread of Israel had fallen on them" - Psalm 105:37-38.

Israel had been in Egypt for 430 years, during which they had been in slavery most of the time. Then one day, after Pharaoh had refused to release them, he relented and the people of God began the trek know as the Exodus and through the Red Sea to the Promised Land. When they came out, the people were so glad to see them go after the Plagues that they gave the Jews silver and gold as departing gifts. "The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. The Lord had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians" (Exodus 12:35-36). The point is that Israel's situation changed overnight when they went from slaves to wealth. Your situation can change overnight as well, for you are just a phone call, chance meeting or idea away from your breakthrough after a long period of being down and out. How can you stay in a state of expectancy for a breakthrough when things have been down in your world for so long? Can you thank God for your breakthrough even though you have no idea how or when it will come?

Today's reading - Psalms 101-105

Life Matter: The Lord Reigns

"The Lord reigns, let the nations tremble; he sits enthroned between the cherubim, let the earth shake. Great is the Lord in Zion; he is exalted over all the nations. Let them praise your great and awesome name—he is holy" - Psalm 99:1-3.

As the psalmists grappled with the state of affairs in Israel and cried out for help and understanding, they always came to the same conclusion. Even though circumstances were not to their liking and were sometimes beyond comprehension, the Lord still ruled and reigned, and ultimately His promises would be fulfilled for His people. That conclusion always led them to one response, and that was praise and worship. It is an easy thing to praise the Lord when you get a raise, a promotion, or a good report from the doctor. It is a bit more challenging when the report or situation is not to your liking. Recognizing this reality, a prophet penned a commitment to praise even when the crops failed: "Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior" (Habakkuk 3:17). Has your fig, grape, or olive harvest failed, so to speak, along with some of your other efforts? Have your flocks disappeared or your work been ruined or lost? If you can praise the Lord in the midst of that, then you have come to the same conclusion that the psalmist did: the Lord reigns.

Today's reading - Psalms 96-100

New Life: No Condemnation

"When I said, 'My foot is slipping,'
    your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.
When anxiety was great within me,
    your consolation brought me joy" - Psalm 94:18-19.

The psalmist made a confession that he was more than a little anxious on occasion. That anxiety did not disqualify him from God's presence, but made God's presence all the more important to him. What's more, God was not offended by that most human of emotions and granted him help in his time of trouble. There are some - and I hope you are not among them - who feel like they cannot come to the Lord as they are, but rather as they think He would want them to be. God is more comfortable with your humanity than you are and knows your thoughts before you articulate them. Your honesty is not for His benefit but for yours, so when you confess your anxiety, for example, He does not condemn you but gives you peace. Perhaps you need to be reminded of what Paul wrote: "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death" (Romans 8:1-2). Are you fearful of God's condemnation if you are honest in His presence? What do you need to tell or confess to the Lord today?

Today's reading - Psalms 91-95