Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Times of Trouble

Blessed is he who has regard for the weak;  the Lord delivers him in times of trouble.
 The Lord will protect him and preserve his life; he will bless him in the land
    and not surrender him to the desire of his foes.
The Lord will sustain him on his sickbed and restore him from his bed of illness.

So David begins with these words, recorded in Psalm 41. He recognizes the weakness of man and the power of the Lord who delivers in times of trouble. David knew some times of trouble and the strong arm of God to deliver. In addition, David says it is the Lord that protects and preserves life, and offers blessings in the land, and will never surrender him to his enemies. 

As the Psalm continues, David is seeking mercy from God and confessing sins. Then he mentions his enemies, those who speak bad of him, those who speak falsely of him, and those who slander him. Even his close friend in which David had placed his trust had failed him.  So David knew what it was like to live in troubled times. 

The end of the Psalm shows David's confidence in God. He seeks God's mercy again, knowing it is God who raises him up. He experiences God's pleasure with him, and because God is pleased, David's enemies will never beat him down.  Now look at verse 12:

In my integrity you uphold me and set me in your presence forever.

David knew he had enemies, but he also knew that he was living a life that pleased God. He knew he was a sinner but he also knew God had forgiven him. He had trusted in the Lord for deliverance, protection, preservation and victory. 

In our day, we would do well to pay attention to David's actions, and especially the way he places his confidence in the Lord.  We are also living in a world where there will be those who continually accuse us, reminding us we are sinners. Satan is always ready to fulfill his role as the accuser.  We even have friends and brethren who might disappoint us or turn their backs on us. We are no different from David when it comes to facing times of trouble in our lives. 

David is our example for overcoming adversity. Like David, sometimes our troubles are brought on ourselves, and sometimes it might be the fault of others. The bottom line is this; regardless of where the difficulty has its origin, the answer always lies within the power of God. 

I refer you to the opening verse of Psalm 41 again. Learn to trust in the Lord for your deliverance. Know that it is God  who sustains us and protects us.  Believe in God's victory for your life.  You, as well as David , can know " In my integrity you uphold me and set me in your presence forever."


Monday, October 29, 2012

Solomon's Prayer

1 Kings 8 tells the story of bringing the Ark of Covenant to the Temple. King Solomon had called for the elders of Israel, all the heads of the tribes, and the chiefs of the Israelite families, to make the move. The earlier verses of chapter 8 tell the story of the transition. Our study today will consider the prayer of Solomon after the arrival of the ark.  He had said a prayer of blessing and then he prayed for some specific things. Note the things of his prayer starting in verse 30:

Hear the supplication of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place. Hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.

1.  If your people wrong their neighbor, let the issue be settled by you, God. You determine the guilt or innocence, bringing down the guilty and vindicating the innocent. 

2. When your people are defeated by an enemy because they have sinned, and when they repent and give you praise, hear them from heaven and forgive their sin and bring them back to their land. 

3. When the heavens produce no rain because your people have sinned, and they pray and turn back to you, hear them and forgive them.  Teach them what is right and send rains on their land. 

4. When  famine or plague comes or blight or mildew, locusts or grasshoppers, or when an enemy besieges them , whatever disaster or disease may come, and they pray, aware of the afflictions of their hearts, hear them from heaven and forgive so they will fear you all the time they live in their land. 

5. Even when a foreigner who is not of Israel hears your great name, and prays, hear them from your dwelling place and answer their prayer.

6. When your people go to war against their enemies, anywhere you send them, and whey they pray to you, hear them from heaven and uphold their cause. 

7. When your people sin and are handed over to their enemies and taken captive, and then have a change of heart and repent and pray to you, hear their prayer and uphold their cause. Forgive your people of their offenses against you and cause their captors to show them mercy. 

8. May your eyes be open to your servant’s plea and to the plea of your people Israel, and may you listen to them whenever they cry out to you. For you singled them out from all the nations of the world to be your own inheritance, just as you declared through your servant Moses when you, Sovereign Lord, brought our ancestors out of Egypt.

I hope you noticed in each point, when people find themselves separated from God and his ways, it calls for a change of heart, and change in direction, and a renewed devotion. What was true for the prayer of Solomon is true for the believer today. God longs for restoration. He sacrificed the blood of his Son, so you could be made right with him. 


Saturday, October 27, 2012

A weekend prayer

We are a little over a week away from an important election in our country. Contested races on the national, state and local levels have been the source of news articles and programs for months. It is important that we seek the direction of God as the selection process nears. 

This weekend, I am urging all who read this blog to spend some time in prayer for America, her leaders, and every citizen.  Pray that we may reclaim the principles upon which our country was formed. Seek God as you pray, and ask that his will be done.  Above all, let us recognize our right and our responsibility to be a part of the selection process. As a Christian, let us ever be diligent in prayer that our country will be led by those whose trust is in the Lord. 

We appreciate the prayers of all our readers, especially those in countries other than the United States of America. We can only repay your kindness by praying that God will bless your nation and its leaders, too.  Let us blend our hearts and prayers, especially in these troubled days, to following the direction of the Apostle Paul, recorded in 1 Timothy 2:1-8.

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time. And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles.8 I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing.

Living peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness is our goal.  May it ever be our prayer.


Friday, October 26, 2012

Heart Problems

Any reader of scripture will catch on quickly to a recurring problem between God and his people. God is faithful and just throughout all times, yet his people have the tendency to forget God and go after idols. Their sin is called idolatry and it meets with God's judgment over and over again. The idols might be in the form of a golden calf or a false God, but God has decreed the He alone is God.

In the Old Testament book of Ezekiel, there is an abundance of seemingly strange language of visions, being "lifted up by the Spirit," and events that are difficult to understand.  A lot of this is happening during a time when God's chosen people are openly devoted to idolatry.  The Bible chapter of Ezekiel 11 carries a topical title in my Bible that says, "God's Sure Judgment on Jerusalem."  The people which God had chosen as his own, were allowing other things to come between them and God. 

The first part of Ezekiel 11 paints a dismal picture.  God is extending his judgment on them by driving them out of the city. Further, battles will be brought against them and they will be delivered into the hands of foreigners.  The sad summation of God's judgment is seen in Ezekiel 11:11-12:

"I will execute judgment on you at the borders of Israel.  And you will know that I am the Lord, for you have not followed my decrees or kept my laws but have conformed to the standards of the nations around you.”

Even in our lives today, God sees and knows when we place other things before him.  Just as his heart was saddened with those mentioned in Ezekiel 11, he is saddened today when we allow our lives to be motivated by worldly things rather than God's goodness and love. Or sometimes, perhaps we want to have the world AND the things of God. But we know better than that. We cannot serve God and the world's riches.

I'm glad this isn't the end of the story. Ezekiel 11 continues under the topical title of the second half of the chapter, "The Promise of Israel's Return."  God promises to gather his people from the nations and bring them back to the land of Israel again.  He says they will return to Israel and remove all its vile images and detestable idols.  Look at verses 19 and 20:

"I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God."

That's what God wants with us, too. To give us an undivided heart and a new spirit.  You see, the heart that is divided between God and anything else, is an idolatrous heart.  The problem for Israel and for us, is heart trouble, but God is a fantastic spiritual cardiologist.  When we turn to him in love and trust and obedience, he blesses us with a new heart and leads us back to him. 


Thursday, October 25, 2012

An Old Story Renewed

It's an old story we have heard before, but sometimes we need to hear the old stories again.  They were told for the benefit of all mankind, giving us a course of direction to take with our lives when similar situations arise.  This one is from John 8. 

Early one morning Jesus showed up at the temple courts and a crowd gathered around him as he sat down to teach.  Then those which were known as the teachers of the law, along with the Pharisees, showed up and brought with them a woman who was caught in adultery.  They stood her before the assembled crowd while confronting Jesus with how to handle the ordeal. “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery.  In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”  It's one thing to be caught in a sin, but another thing to have our sin made known to a group of people. And the surprising thing is, the accusers of this woman were not really concerned about her, they were simply trying to push Jesus into a corner with his answer.  How would you answer them?

Jesus stooped down and started writing on the ground with his finger.  The group pressed him further for an answer of how to handle this woman and her sin, but the answer they got wasn't what they were expecting. When Jesus stood up and spoke, he said, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  One by one, the accusers left and soon only Jesus and the woman were standing there. Jesus asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”“No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Some would conclude from this story that Jesus isn't going to condemn us if we commit adultery!  The good news is that Jesus isn't going to condemn us for any of our sins if we commit our lives to him and leave our sinful ways.  That was too much for those religious leaders to grasp. They had the strict adherence to the law on their side, she deserved to be stoned. But she had the loving and forgiving Savior on her side. 

Some would argue that the story produces a false sense of forgiveness in that this woman showed no remorse, didn't say she was sorry, and did not promise to stop sinning.  The story's end in the Bible is comprised of the words of Jesus  for her to go and leave her life of sin.  We have no additional information that would tell us if she did that, or continued her sinful ways. 

The lesson for us in this story is that while Jesus would still consider adultery a sin, he teaches us that forgiven sinners are more important than the law which condemns them to death.  Maybe your sin is not as bad as adultery, and maybe your sin has not been made public, but the fact still remains, we all sin, "and fall short of the glory of God."  We deserve punishment. We deserve death. 

On the cross, Jesus died for this woman caught in adultery, just as he died for you and me. His blood covers our sin and brings us into a rightness with God. His mercy and his grace are given as his response to sinful mankind. Our response is to "Go, and leave our lives of sin."