Life Matter - Your Thoughts

"May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the Lord" - Psalm 104:34.

The psalmist prayed that his meditation would be pleasing to the Lord. That meant the psalmist was not only careful to give God verbal praise, but was also mindful of his thoughts, making sure those were pleasing to the Lord as well. You have a running dialogue all day with yourself - it's called self-talk - and God is listening in while you do. Have you ever thought about making sure your thoughts are acceptable to the Lord? The objective is not to think inappropriate thoughts but then to say something appropriate to cover them, denying those thoughts are even present. Your goal should be for your thoughts and speech to be sources of pleasure for God. The psalmist gave us a tip on how to keep your meditation acceptable, and that is to rejoice in the Lord, thus providing fertile ground for good meditation. Jesus taught that God is concerned with your thought life when He confronted the Pharisees and said, "Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, 'Why are you thinking these things?'" (Mark 2:8). What is your thought life like? Do you even pay attention to your thoughts or realize how important they are? What can do today to maintain your joy so your thoughts are as pure as God wants them to be?

Today's reading - Psalms 101-104

Life Matter - Part of the Group

"Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture" - Psalm 100:3.

If you are following the Lord, you are a "sheep" no matter how mature you are or how many years you have walked with Him. Notice also that the psalmist today was talking about multiple sheep, which constitute a flock. This means you are part of a larger group, which of course is today known as the church. All this requires humility when you realize that you never arrive and are never to be alone, for you need the gifts, insight, and opportunities for love, personal growth, and generosity afforded you in your church group setting. Therefore, you are not only to focus on your personal well-being, but also on the health of your group or church. Paul wrote most of his letters to churches and not individuals and had this to say about the church in his letter to Timothy: "Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:14-15). Are you part of a church group? Do you have its best interests at heart? Do you just show up from time-to-time, or do you invest time, money, and your spiritual gifts to benefit others?

Today's reading - Psalms 96-100

Life Matter - Properly Placed Trust

"Who will rise up for me against the wicked? Who will take a stand for me against evildoers? Unless the Lord had given me help, I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death" - Psalm 94:16-17.

The psalmist was in trouble and danger, and he asked a rhetorical question for which there was only one answer: the Lord. The writer raised a good point that no one can take the place of the Lord or be as faithful or loyal as He is. Men and women will often disappoint you, but the Lord will not. Paul, Jesus, David, Joseph, Daniel, and others had people fail and even betray them, which only made their commitment to God that much stronger as their only source of help and strength. Given this truth, God still requires you to give yourself to others in friendship and service, realizing that they may not reciprocate and often disappoint you. Jesus is your example in this, for He certainly served people but kept His expectations in His Father: "But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person" (John 2:24-25). Are you dealing with disappointment over a betrayal of friendship or unmet expectations where another person is concerned? Do you see that God may be showing you not to put unrealistic trust in others, but to properly place all your trust in Him?

Today's reading - Psalms 91-95

Life Matter - Life is Short

"Remember how fleeting is my life.
    For what futility you have created all humanity!
Who can live and not see death,
    or who can escape the power of the grave?" - Psalm 89:47-48.

The psalmist was pouring out his heart to the Lord, burdened by the pressures of life and God's seeming withdrawal of His presence from the psalmist's situation. The psalmist was reminding the Lord, and perhaps himself, that his life is short, and God must help him to get free from the trouble so he pursue God and God's purpose without interference. Do you have that same mindset that leads to the same kind of prayers? Are you living like your life is short? Do you make the most of every day, and are you living in the urgency of this moment? Do you live like you are dying, which in a sense you are? Read these verses and then set goals for tomorrow and the coming year that are consistent with the truth of today's verses: "However many years anyone may live, let them enjoy them all. But let them remember the days of darkness, for there will be many. Everything to come is meaningless. You who are young, be happy while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. So then, banish anxiety from your heart and cast off the troubles of your body, for youth and vigor are meaningless" (Ecclesiastes 11:8-10).

Today's reading - Psalms 86-90

Life Matter - The Church

"Hear us, Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine forth before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh. Awaken your might; come and save us" - Psalm 80:1-2.

Most people apply the psalms to personal problems and read them for personal benefit, and there is nothing wrong with that. Yet some of the psalms were corporate in nature, and Psalm 80 is one of them. The psalmist was not praying "I" or "me" prayers but rather "us" and "we" prayers. He was concerned about the state of the people of God, for the writer knew his destiny was tied in part to the destiny of the covenant community. This was not simply an ethnic concern, since all of them were Jews, but a concern for the state of the "church." You also should have a concern not just for your own welfare but also for that of the church, for which Jesus shed His blood to establish it. Paul wrote about Jesus' love for the church in Ephesians 5:25-30: "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body." Do you love the Church? Are you part of one? Do you pray for its welfare? And how about your concern for the larger Church? Do you desire to see it doing well so your fellow believers can prosper and God can be magnified in the earth?

Today's reading - Psalms 76-80

Life Matter - Depriving Others

"We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done, and they in turn would tell their children. . . .Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands" - Psalm 78:4, 7.

You have a testimony, probably many testimonies, of what the Lord has done for you, your family, your business, or your ministry. You are obligated to tell others your story for two reasons. The first is so God will receive glory from what He has done, and people will say when they hear or read it, "Praise the Lord," or "Thank You, Jesus!" The second is so people will be encouraged to put their trust in the Lord and keep His commands in a similar life situation, as the psalmist wrote in Psalm 78. When you don't write, publish, broadcast, preach, speak, or converse about your testimony, you are depriving others of what they may need to move on in the Lord. When you belittle your testimony, thinking, "This isn't very significant," or when you engage in false humility, "I had better not draw attention to myself and just be quiet," it may seem like you are being spiritual, but you are not. You are being disobedient. When your heart pounds, your breathing increases, your fear level rises, and you focus on what may happen to you if you share, then you should press through and find a way to tell your story, whether it is a few sentences or 500 pages. Where have you been talking yourself out of declaring the wonders that God has done for you? Do you see how you are depriving others of their hope and God of His glory? What can you do to share how good God has been to you with others?

Today's reading - Psalms 76-80

Life Matter - Proof

"Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever" - Psalm 73:25-26.

The psalmist was declaring his absolute allegiance and devotion to the God of heaven, stating that he had no other interests apart from the Lord. The way you can prove your own devotion is not only to proclaim it, but also to prove it by obeying God's word, which are His instructions from heaven for how to live here on earth. Peter explained the role the Word is to play in your life when he wrote, "His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires" (2 Peter 1:3-4). Throughout this devotional, your reading and study of the Word have been emphasized again and again. That's because the psalmists themselves stressed the importance of the Word. Does the Word have a central place in your life? What proof do you have that it is? As a new year approaches, what goals can you set now that relate to your growth in the knowledge and application of God's word?

Today's reading - Psalms 71-75

Life Matter - Blessed in Need

"But as for me, I am poor and needy; come quickly to me, O God. You are my help and my deliverer; Lord, do not delay" - Psalm 70:5.

David acknowledged his poverty before God, and that meant David was in constant need of God's help, as we have seen throughout this devotional. There are many who reject the Lord and church attendance because they claim it is a "crutch" for the weak, and they are exactly right. Yet this neediness is a good thing, for then it frees the needy person to cry out to God for helpand receive it. Jesus Himself told us how beneficial it is to be needy and to recognize it: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man" (Luke 6:20-22). Are you aware of your need as you encounter all sorts of potentially overwhelming opposition in your life? Then according to Jesus, you are blessed! Do you see yourself as blessed, or do you wallow in your neediness, desperately trying to find some way to become self-sufficient? Do you see that when you try to make your own way, you are resisting the reality that God has established so He can be your Helper and Deliverer?

Today's reading - Psalms 66-70

Life Matter - Bread and Water

"You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water" - Psalm 63:1-3.

David was an anointed poet who had a way with words. While God inspired the words, David used his gift, perfected his skill, and gave God something to use as he wrote. God doesn't use people with potential; He uses people who have taken the time and made the effort to develop their potential. In today's verses, David expressed his desperate need for God, comparing it to the quest of a thirsty person in a desert. Jesus likened Himself to bread from heaven and water for life, indicating that He was and is the answer for anyone's most basic needs to sustain life: “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life" (John 4:13-14) and "Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die" (John 6:47-49). Is that how you feel about your need for God? Is that a sometimes-thing, or an always-felt need? Is Jesus your daily bread and water? How do you meet your need for Him? Prayer? Reading? Service?

Today's reading - Psalms 61-65

Life Matter - Missions Mind

"I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples. For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies" - Psalm 57:9-10.

David's desire was to worship not only in Israel, but among all the nations. This came from David's awareness that God was not just the God of his people, but of all the people on earth, whether those people realized it or not. David saw it as his duty to make them aware of his and their God, thus making him a missionary of sorts. Jesus picked up on this theme when He came, trying to instill a missions heart and values into His own disciples, who were slow to embrace that perspective, preferring instead to stay among the people with which they were familiar. It was the Apostle Paul who championed the cause of missions in the early church, and his zeal took him all over the Roman Empire to preach the gospel and plant churches. The Apostle Peter also understood God's desire for the nations when he said, "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right" (Acts 10:34-35). Do you have a missions mind for the nations, or is it just for your own people and culture? Are you supporting others who have a missions' burden through prayer and giving? Are you open to some kind of missions involvement yourself, whatever that may look like?

Today's reading - Psalms 56-60