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Life Matter: Psalms and Revelation

"All you Israelites, praise the Lord;
    house of Aaron, praise the Lord;
house of Levi, praise the Lord;
    you who fear him, praise the Lord.
Praise be to the Lord from Zion,
    to him who dwells in Jerusalem" - Psalms 135:19-21.

The psalms are a mixture of individual and corporate expressions of and exhortations to praise. In today's passage, we see a corporate exhortation that covers the nation, families, tribes and all who feared the Lord. The end result of everything in Psalms is praise, a focus on God that transcends circumstances to His majesty and goodness. When you look at psalms from that perspective, you see that it mirrors the message of Revelation, which is also a picture of praise and worship as the ultimate human expression: "After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: 'Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.' All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God" (Revelation 7:9-11). Is the end of your spiritual devotion and seeking praise and worship? Are you focused on God or on yourself and your world of family and work/ministry? Do you have both corporate and individual expressions of praise in your spiritual repertoire?

Today's reading - Psalms 131-135

Life Matter: Waiting on the Lord

"I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
    and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
    more than watchmen wait for the morning,
    more than watchmen wait for the morning" - Psalm 130:5-6.

There is no more misunderstood or misused concept in your walk with God than 'waiting on the Lord.' Most people consider waiting on the Lord the same as waiting on a train or bus. They passively wait, looking down the tracks or road to see if the transportation is coming. If it doesn't come, then they are exempt from any responsibility or action. That is not waiting; that is abdicating. Re-read the verses above and notice how the psalmist's entire being is waiting. He is searching and all his energy and faculties are focused on that task. If you are waiting on the Lord for a new job, you spend your time now getting ready for that job, as Abraham Lincoln once said: “I will study and get ready, and perhaps my chance will come.” Where are you passively waiting and instead should be actively pursuing a goal while you wait for your God-given breakthrough? Where are you waiting for God to do what only you can do? Is your waiting an opportunity for growth or a dereliction of duty?

Today's reading - Psalms 126-130

Reports from Kenya

It's been a few weeks since I have updated you on the latest in Kenya, where good things continue to happen. We are in the midst of collecting books and supplies for our next shipment and I will have more to say on that in the coming weeks. For now, here are updates from Pastors Francis (with pictures of Mary) and Peter.

Dr. J,

Mary SmileI hope that this finds you well and in good health. Mary is doing very well and all Mary Singleof us are in good health. The land owner where Upako stands is still disturbing us and we have been summoned to court this week on Friday. He wants the court to throw us out so my hope is in God who understands everything everywhere.I will share with you about the outcome of the case. I'm trusting God for a new permanent place for the orphans but I don't know how. If God can bring our way a person or organization who can partner with Upako to help the orphans I will be very grateful.


Pst. Francis

Then here is a word from Pastor Peter (the chicks he refers to in his email were eggs I placed in the incubator last March):

Dear Dr. Stanko,

We bring greetings from Kenya. The libraries are doing well and now the computer class is operational Peter Chicks 2although with shortage of computers and power backup. Operation Chicken Coop is well functioning and the chicks you had put in March are fully mature. We continue appreciating all our partners and all your support is well utilized for the transformation of the community.

God bless you all,

Pastor Peter

I sent $500 to Alice last week for food for our orphans at EOTOO, so the work and needs there continue and increase. I need your help now as always to take care of the responsibilities the Lord has given us there. You can give through my website or by sending a tax-deductible contribution to PurposeQuest, PO Box 8882, Pittsburgh, PA 15221-0882. Soon we will start to work on shipping a container, but for now, the children and libraries need your help. Thank you.

Life Matter: Go Where God Is

"I rejoiced with those who said to me,
    'Let us go to the house of the Lord.'
Our feet are standing
    in your gates, Jerusalem" - Psalm 122:1-2.

This psalm is one of what is known as the psalms of ascents (Psalms 120-134). Many believe these psalms were recited by pilgrims as they made their way to Jerusalem as the Lord had commanded them to do three times every year. God did not seem to mind putting the people through the rigors of travel in order to engage His presence in Jerusalem. Even today when the Lord wants to speak to His people, He often has them go on a trip, for then they are out of their comfort zone and more aware of their environment and His voice. Jesus was with His disciples in Jerusalem but then directed them to go north to Galilee, even though He could have spoken to them in Jerusalem: "Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said . . ." (Matthew 28:16-18a). Has God put it on your heart to go somewhere where God will meet you? Are you trying to talk yourself out of going? Are you thinking that what has to say to you He can say here so you don't have to go?

Today's reading - Psalms 121-125

Life Matter: Addictions

"Truly I am your servant, Lord; I serve you just as my mother did; you have freed me from my chains" - Psalm 116:16.

The psalmist had a family heritage of serving the Lord, yet the psalmist also had a testimony that he had been in bondage or chains at some point in time. It's possible he was in chains even while he was serving the Lord. Someone can love the Lord and still be addicted to something as simple as television reality shows or something more serious like drugs or pornography. God is able to break your chains no matter how strong they are, for He is stronger, but you must want to be set free -- God will not separate you from your friends if you are that attached to them. Jesus once set a man free and if this man could be set free, then you can be set free as well: "This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones" (Mark 5:3-5). Are you addicted to something or have a overpowering negative habit? Cry out to the Lord and He will set you free, but only if that is what you want.

Today's reading - Psalms 116-120

Life Matter: Light in Darkness

"Even in darkness light dawns for the upright,
 for those who are gracious and

compassionate and righteous" - Psalm 112:4.

God is able to protect His own no matter what the circumstances. God preserved Noah and his family during the Flood. He protected the Jews when the plagues were tormenting Egypt. The Lord protected Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace. He also protected Daniel in the lions' den: "At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, 'Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?' Daniel answered, 'May the king live forever! My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty"' (Daniel 6:19-23). Like Daniel, are you facing the lions over some stand you have taken for the Lord, some persecution like a job loss, broken relationship or economic oppression? Are you afraid? Learn from the examples mentioned here, and don't fear, for God can make your light shine no matter how dark it gets!

Today's reading - Psalms 111-115

Life Matter: The Words of God

"The Lord says to my lord:

'Sit at my right hand
 until I make your enemies
 a footstool for your feet'" - Psalm 110:1.

Jesus quoted this verse when He was teaching the people in Mark 12:35-37: "While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, he asked, 'Why do the teachers of the law say that the Messiah is the son of David? David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared: ''The Lord said to my Lord: 'Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.' David himself calls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?' The large crowd listened to him with delight."  Notice that Jesus acknowledged David wrote this psalm. Then He recognized that the Holy Spirit had inspired David's words, speaking through David in the words of the psalm. Finally, the people so enjoyed Jesus' insight into the Word that they listened with absolute delight. Do you have the same 'high' view of Scripture? Do you see the Bible as the words of God? If you have the privilege of speaking and teaching God's word, do people delight to listen to you as Jesus gives you insight into His word? If you sit under a teacher of God's word, are you being fed from the Word or are you tolerating poor teaching int he interest of tradition or family ties?

Today's reading - Psalms 106-110

Life Matter: Another Way to Rejoice

"Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;
    make known among the nations what he has done.
Sing to him, sing praise to him;
    tell of all his wonderful acts.
Glory in his holy name;
    let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Look to the Lord and his strength;
    seek his face always" - Psalm 105:1-4.

Yesterday we looked at the concept of rejoicing, which is making your joy evident through words and song. Today's passage also mentions rejoicing, ordering those who seek the Lord to rejoice while adding another way to rejoice, and that is to share your testimony to as much of your world as possible. In other words, your devotion and worship cannot be a private matter, but must be carried out publicly to encourage others to join you - or at least to listen. A great example of this is found in Acts: "They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah" (6:40-42). Are you in a worse situation than the apostles were? If not, then you have no excuse not to be doing what they did - rejoicing and proclaiming!

Today's reading - Psalms 101-105

Life Matter: Decide to Rejoice

"Light shines on the righteous
    and joy on the upright in heart.
Rejoice in the Lord, you who are righteous,
    and praise his holy name" - Psalm 97:11-12.

We return once again to the topic of joy. In these verses, we see that joy shines on the righteous, coming from an outside source. It is not dependent on circumstances and is not a decision on the part of the joyful. It is a decision, however, to rejoice - to allow the joy to show on your face and in your being. Paul outlined how this joy and peace can shine down on a righteous person: "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:4-7). Spend a few minutes today reflecting on this concept of joy and the process that Paul outlined in Philippians. Are you rejoicing? Do others know you have joy? As God shines joy on you, do you reflect it to others? Are you anxious? Do you pray with thanksgiving? Do you have the peace that passes all understanding?

Today's reading - Psalms 96-100

Life Matter: Your Father's Discipline

"Blessed is the one you discipline, Lord,
    the one you teach from your law;
you grant them relief from days of trouble,
    till a pit is dug for the wicked" - Psalm 94:12-13.

God is always teaching and disciplining His people and here the psalmist indicated why He is doing that. He does it to prevent you and me from getting into trouble down the road. He also does it so that the righteous will be protected and preserved, set apart as it is, until such time as God is ready to judge the wicked. This also protects the righteous so they will not be judged along with wicked. Paul reiterated this principle when he wrote, "Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world" (1 Corinthians 11:32). Are you encountering discipline from your Heavenly Father's hand? What does this discipline look like? Are you chafing under or resistant to this discipline? Can you accept it in faith that it is in your long-term best interests for your Father to do this? Can you not just endure it, but see that you are blessed because of it and even thank God for it?

Today's reading - Psalms 91-95