Detestable

Today's devotion from Proverbs 21.

A person's heart matters. What I mean to say is that the reason for action is important in assessing the action itself. Motives are significant. This simple fact causes me much frustration as a father. I want my children to genuinely get along, not avoid hitting one another because they fear being grounded. If they do quarrel, I want them to make up because they realize the error of their actions, not to apologize because I'm threatening them. I want them to have the right motivations.

It is possible to go through the procedure and acts of worship without having every truly worshipped. In fact, my journey toward writing these daily devotions began because I needed accountability. Too often I was tempted to simply skim the words of the Bible instead of truly interacting with the Word of God. You are my accountability.

The author of proverbs warns, "The sacrifice of the wicked person is detestable--how much more so when he brings it with ulterior motives!" (Proverbs 21:27, CSB) It is bad enough to go through the act of worship without truly giving praise to God as evidenced by living a life that is contrary to His desire and design. It is even worse to use the acts of worship as a means to your own ends.

What are your motives today? Are you doing right things to avoid trouble, or are you living out your faith in God?

By His Actions

Today's devotion from Proverbs 19 and 20.

The proverbs are interesting to study because, many times, there seems to be no recognizable flow of thought between verses and chapters. As you read, it might be tempting to believe he author just wrote extemporaneously as random thoughts popped into his head. I can't argue with that. I've seen authors and scholars try to find connections, but there are just too many times a disconnected thought or verse throws their theories off. Even in my own study of Proverbs 18, there are wild ideas that keep the section from flowing in a way that makes a lot of sense to me.

However, there is a connection. The purpose of the proverbs were to give insight and wisdom. As such, they touch on many facets of life. Even in this reading today you've seen discussion on social justice, equitable trade, crisis management, resourcefulness, work ethic, and family relationships. These words cover much ground, but the ground is almost always connected to one great, overarching theme.

"Even a young man is known by his actions--by whether his behavior is pure and upright." (Proverbs 20:11, CSB)

The key to the proverbs is to realize that God has not designed a faith for the theoretical realm. His expectations are that our faith will be lived out. It will be both displayed and demonstrated in the way we treat others and conduct our business. In our homes, in the community, and in our sanctuaries, our faithful walk with Him in accordance with His design is evident.

If your walk with God isn't foundational in every aspect of your life, then you have a limp. There will inevitably be some area of your life uninformed or unsurrendered to Him, and this, dear friend, is disobedience. It is not enough to worship Him on Sunday and to swindle your neighbors on Monday.

No. Our faith must be lived because it is speaking in every moment of every day by our actions.

Selfish Desires

Today's devotion from Proverbs 18.

Several years ago I began working on a project for offering biblical guidance to couples preparing for marriage. One of the issues that I felt passionately about was in adjusting the perspective from which many people enter this relationship. In many ways, our society has corrupted God's design from selfless and faithful to selfish and fleeting.

In studying Scripture on this topic, I spent quite a bit of time in Proverbs 18. In fact, one session in the workbook I developed assigns the couple to read and study this chapter so they can answer questions. There is much wisdom in these verses, but I feel particularly touched by the first two verses, "One who isolates himself pursues selfish desires; he rebels against all sound wisdom. A fool does not delight in understanding, but only wants to show off his opinions." (Proverbs 18:1-2, CSB)

What I would like you to consider is that in our relationships, not just marriage, we have a decision to make. Will we approach this relationship from the perspective of me or from the vantage of we? Our culture has redefined relationships to be about what I get out it. Is it fulfilling to me? We are led to think of ourselves and our happiness above all else. After all, we can't choose who we love or when we love them, right?

This is perhaps one of the greatest lies that the father of lies has ever birthed.

He has somehow convinced people that the love we feel is pure and undefiled, and, therefore, worthy of sacrificing anything and everything on its altars. The problem is that they have forgotten the effects of the Fall. "God doesn't make mistakes," they say. "God wants me to be happy," they proclaim. And, so, they give themselves over to pursue a form of love that is mangled by sin. It degrades others. It exalts me.

In the end, it isolates us even while we are within relationships because it is broken by selfish desires.

Love is a choice, and a love that honors others and embraces God's design is selfless. This kind of love is an exercise in selfless discipline requiring us to surrender ourselves to God and to the service of those we choose to love. Today, you have a choice to make. Will you isolate yourself in the pursuit of selfish desires? I pray not.

Better Than Power

Today's devotion from Proverbs 15 & 16.

Proverbs 15:32 reads, "Patience is better than power, and controlling one's emotions, than capturing a city." (Proverbs 15:32, CSB) The reason the author can say this with certainty has already been laid bare. In verse 3 he wrote, "Commit your activities to the LORD, and your plans will be established." (Proverbs 15:3, CSB)

We often get this step backward. We see a goal, and then we begin to traverse the obstacles and steps necessary to achieve that goal. It may a relationship or a job or some other issue, but we often approach the situation from the perspective of solving the puzzle. For example, when I was called to ministry, I had no idea what that path looked like. I wrestled with the problem for a long time. I tried to solve it in a number ways. Ultimately, this approach led me to waste a lot of time and to deal with lots of stress.

After trying to orient my life around solving the puzzle, I finally came to the place where I knew I had to give up. I couldn't do it. So, I cast myself on the mercy of the LORD and began to seek Him instead of the answer to my riddle. The odd part is, once I began to commit my activities to the LORD, he established my plans. When I quit trying to figure it out and just started trying to faithfully follow Him, He opened the doors that I couldn't even see.

We can try to power our way through life solving problems and working toward goals, but this things that truly matter can't be accomplished through sheer will and determination. The greatest things in life are often those that are brought to us as we patiently wait for the Lord to make the way, open the door, or reveal in some way.

A Gentle Answer

Today's devotion from Proverbs 15.

I missed our children's first day of school this year while I was at a conference. While we were able to pray together before they went to school through the wonder of modern technology, and in spite of the opportunity I had to pick them up that first day, I can't help but feel like I missed something. With that in mind, I made sure to be present yesterday morning for their second day.

We gathered for a time of Scripture reading and prayer before I walked them to school. I know they will face difficulty this year. Anna is at that awkward preteen stage where everything is dramatic and cliques can wound. Liam is very tenderhearted, as I was, and takes comments and silence to heart. Isla is unfiltered, and says whatever comes into her mind.

This will be a trying year.

As I wondered what we should read for this first family time of the new school year, I turned to Proverbs 15:1 and asked Anna to read. From her voice I heard, "A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath." (Proverbs 15:1, CSB) We talked about gentle words and harsh words. We talked about being courteous and polite. We talked about being kind and compassionate.

As I usually do when we have these times, I asked questions to see if the kids could rephrase what we had discussed in their own words. It was not my 11 year old who knows the answers, or my tenderhearted 8 year old who seems to innately understand biblical concepts, but my 6 year old wild child that engaged and answered the questions. Her responses helped me to remember that it is often not the deep truths of Scripture that we stumble over, but those that are so obvious that even a 6 year old can see them.

Our world is broken. Terrorists are running rampant. Racism is rearing its ugly head. Countries are patting themselves on the back for genocide against the innocent. It's tempting to feel depressed and discouraged. You and I may not be able to do anything about these issues, but we can do something about how we choose to interact with others. We might not be able to change the world, but we can do our part to encourage the person in front of us.

The Strength of An Ox

Today's devotion from Proverbs 14.

Much of this chapter revolves around the home. As such, it speaks of what is required of the one who seeks to establish a strong and healthy family. I can't imagine that there is anyone who would not want a healthy home and environment for their family. While many pray for their homes and family, this proverb confirms a truth that we already know.

Making a happy home is hard work.

While this is encapsulated in several verses, the one that I would like to draw your attention to reads, "Where there are no oxen, the feeding trough is empty, but an abundant harvest comes through the strength of an ox." (Proverbs 14:4, CSB) This verse communicates to us the necessity of investing ourselves and our efforts in the task of building our lives in the home.

The person who would prosper must pour themselves into the agricultural rigors of the day. They would have to work diligently, not only at the actual processes of cultivating a harvest, but also in the enormous investment in purchasing and caring for livestock, which could be a luxury not afforded to all.

Yes, it is hard work to make a happy home, but hard work is only part of it. It requires the blessing of God.

We cannot rest on either aspect alone. God blesses us with potential and provision, but we cannot assume that we can sit around without partnering with Him. Harvests will not plant or reap themselves. Yet, simultaneously, we must realize the blessing that is afforded us when we are given the opportunity to roll our sleeves up and join God in supplying provision. It is a blessing to have an ox.

For many of us, we may not feel the necessity of an ox, but we do need gainful employment, access to transportation, education, and the health to work. Yet, some of these are not available to everyone. Is this proof that God doesn't care for them? No. It simply means that God's means of provision for them is different. Some are give an ox. Others are given the gift of His people.

You were meant for more than climbing a corporate latter or filling your own cupboard. Look just a few verses later and you will read, "Fools mock at making reparation, but there is goodwill among the upright." (Proverbs 14:9, CSB) In short, among those who are blessed and stand upright before God, there will be a compassion that enables God to bless others through them.

Today, maybe you will find yourself in a situation where you must enjoy the tremendous blessing of joining in God's work of provision for your own household. It is also possible that you will be given the joy of helping provide for another. Remember, abundant harvest comes through the strength of an ox.

Correction is Stupid

Today's devotion from Proverbs 12 and 13.

Correction is stupid. This sounds like something the teenage version of me would have proclaimed after being disciplined for some infraction. Although none of my children are teenagers yet, I'm fairly sure I've heard this sentiment uttered by them also.

Both Proverbs 12 and 13 begin with this similar thought, "Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but one who hates correction is stupid," and, "A wise son responds to his father's discipline, but a mocker doesn't listen to rebuke." (Proverbs 12:1 and 13:1, CSB, respectively)

Now, let's be clear about what these verses are not saying. They are not saying that we like punishment. I've never met anyone who wanted to be chastised or reprimanded. However, what this is saying is that a wise person will accept correction for the sake of being correct. That is, a person with proper priorities would prefer to be shown the right way over being neglected and allowed to continue in the wrong.

There are many within our culture that would disagree.

We live in a society that has cast aside the notion of absolute truth. In so doing, they have come to the conclusion that they would rather live ignorant that under the authority of the inerrant Word of God. They don't want to be told that the lifestyle they lead and the lies they believe are "wrong" in any way. In fact, anyone who would tell them they are inherently mistaken is simply a closed-minded bigot who needs to be corrected himself.

Our culture would not seem to desire correction, but, then again, could we ever claim that our broken world could beget a wise society? The answer must be negative. A wise person would rather be shown his or her error so that they might find what is nobler and better. Correction and restoration are the point of the discipline spoken of in these two verses, but the Enemy's grip has mangled our world to the point that those within it are twisted to the point that they cannot imagine that they are wrong.

Do you see the problem? In a world full of such headstrong hedonists, perhaps one of the most gracious and compassionate things God can do is pursue those who do not want to be pursued. To try and restore those who are so lost they see no need of restoration. To try to correct those who are so inherently broken that they cannot imagine being wrong.

A City Rejoices

Today's devotion from Proverbs 11.

A couple of weeks ago I delivered a message outlining the weight of responsibility that God has entrusted to our local congregation. I call us a "Baptist outpost" because we serve a transitional area. There are not many SBC congregations north of us. In trying to communicate the important work god has called us to undertake, I pointed out our place in our local and state associations. I quoted statistics and ranges, counties and congregations. However the most overwhelming statistic I shared was this:

18,333

If you study the numbers, you will see that in our county there are roughly 5,000 Evangelical protestants and 5,000 Mainline Protestants. There are around 5,000 Catholics and others also, but there are 18,333 completely unashamed and unaffiliated people in our county. That is 18,333 people who don't even pretend to be religious. 18,333 people, waiters and waitresses, cashiers, nurses, teachers, factory workers, farmers, and bankers, people without Christ.

Now, consider the words of the author, "A city is built up by the blessing of the upright, but it is torn down by the mouth of the wicked." (Proverbs 11:11, CSB) We have been told time and again that we are to focus on a personal relation with Christ. That is true, but our relationship with God, while personal, is not private. By definition, following Christ will affect those around you.

In the current climate of our culture, our cities need to rejoice. They need a win. They need the hope of Christ.

A city, our city, your city, can and will be touched by Christ's work in you as you answer His call, walk in obedience, and live out your faith in a real and honest way. And while it benefits you to closely follow after Jesus, there are others unknowingly relying on you. In the case of our church family, at least 18,333 of them.

 

When the Whirlwind Passes

Today's devotion from Proverbs 10.

This chapter presents a comparison between the wicked and the righteous. There are many points of contrast between the two. Some of the examples include hopes, fear, interactions with others, righteous living, and relationship with God. In these things, as you can imagine, the author tells us that it is always better with God. What we sometimes fail to realize, however, is that while the outcomes are better with God, the situations described are often the same.

The verse that gave us the title of today's devotion reads, "When the whirlwind passes, the wicked are no more, but the righteous are secure forever." (Proverbs 10:25, CSB) Now, the truth that we know but don't want to admit is that both the righteous and the wicked must weather the whirlwind.

Walking with God doesn't always mean that He will spare you from the devastating circumstances this world can and will throw at you. The difference between the two is not in one's exemption, but in God's protection. This principle is on display throughout the chapter. For one, instruction is life. For the other, it is rejected. The righteous pour into others through conversations and interactions whereas the wicked poison others.

The difference is defined by God's presence and protection. That is to say, when God is with us, even the most devastating situations can become meaningful in His plan. He can turn our failures into triumphs and our flaws into strengths, but only through our faithful recognition of Him. His presence. His power. His definition of success and failure.

Today, walking with God may lead you headlong into the whirlwind. Might I offer some advice? Instead of questioning why this is happening to you, you might spend some time thanking Him for His promise to see you through it. After all, the wicked and the righteous will weather the storm. The difference is in when the whirlwind passes.

At the Crossroads

Today's devotion from Proverbs 8 and 9.

As I was reading tonight, I began to look through these verses and study. One of the sources I read focused in on Proverbs 8:1-3, "Doesn't wisdom call out? Doesn't understanding make her voice heard? At the heights overlooking the road, at the crossroads, she takes her stand. Beside the gates leading into the city, at the main entrance, she cries out." (Proverbs 8:1-3, CSB)

Duane A. Garrett wrote, "Wisdom calls for an audience at the places where she is most likely to find one: from the heights by the road, at crossroads, and at entrances to the city. She is like a merchant hawking her wares. This would not seem to be a dignified posture for one so exalted as she, but the important point is that wisdom is for ordinary people—she is not confined to the academic classroom or to sacred precincts of the temple. Nor is she high atop some mountain where only the hardiest and most determined will find her. To the contrary, she wants to attract all and be accessible to all. The attainment of Wisdom is not a quest but a response."

I loved that last sentence, "The attainment of Wisdom is not a quest but a response." These chapters reveal to us that wisdom isn't hidden. God isn't trying to make it difficult for us to gain insight. Instead, He so desires us to have understanding that He has taken the time to reveal wisdom to us in both His works and His ways. His Word reveals His heart to us. He even went so far as to make it plain in Creation. Paul wrote, "For his invisible attributes, that is, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what he has made. As a result, people are without excuse." (Romans 1:20, CSB)

God's design is not hidden. It is His desire to reveal His will to us and for us to walk in it. And so, we find ourselves at the crossroads with Wisdom. As we hear her cry out, which path will we follow? Which path will you follow?

 

 

Fellowship Offerings

Today's devotion from Proverbs 7.

This is an awkward chapter to read. Our author is incredibly concerned with seduction and adultery. Upon first reading, it could be that we might not find the application of this chapter as easily as some others. Of course, we could just generically apply this chapter to sexual purity and be done with it, but I think we'd be missing out on a more pressing application.

When we look at verse 14, something curious is happening. As the woman is attempting to seduce the young man, she says, "I've made fellowship offerings; today I've fulfilled my vows." (Proverbs 7:14, CSB) This interesting little verse is typically viewed from one of two lenses.

First, there is the idea that she is enticing the young man with the promise of a feast. This theory is supported by the idea that a meat offering would have been involved. However, I think this is a weak position. It really doesn't seem to have any backing by the content or context of the rest of the chapter.

The second option is that she is propositioning the man as a prostitute. If she were attempting to fulfill her vows, she would need the proper coinage. However, she has said that her husband is away with her silver. This seems to have more support from the text even though Scripture forbade the use of money from prostitution in the paying of vows (Deuteronomy 23:17-18).

Now, I'm pretty sure I can guess what you're thinking. You aren't really sure that you will struggle with being a prostitute or be propositioned by one, so how does this proverb apply to you? In this single verse we have encountered a serious and heinous offense. Regardless of how you interpret verse 14, the one inescapable truth is that she is using worship as a tool for sin.

Think about that.

The traditions and rituals that were meant to draw men closer to God can be manipulated to drive a wedge between the two. It may not always be through prostitution or sexual sin, but if this happened in this case, we should be wary of others. I've seen churches split over worship and believers argue over sanctuaries. Be very careful. Just because we are doing something "religious" doesn't mean we are being righteous.

Six Things

Today's devotion from Proverbs 6.

Read through this chapter, and you will find a listing of things God hates. Before we get to these iconic words themselves, we see the warning to avoid becoming entangled in bad financial dealings, laziness, and dishonesty. After the list of six things, no seven, we find a word of caution regarding adultery. Not only is adultery wrong, but the author instructs his audience to consider each of those affected, including the other's spouse.

As you read through this chapter, it would be easy to see these issues and topics that are addressed and simply dismiss them. They are really very obvious to most people. However, I would challenge you to look at them with fresh eyes. What you will see is a truth that we know, but often gloss over. There is wisdom that is so obvious that it is uncommon. There is instruction where none should be required, yet in the living the need for the author's words is vindicated time and again.

We could get into deep theological conversations about usury, personal responsibility in provision, and the fine line between manipulation and consideration. However, to do so would rob us of the simple beauty of this chapter. Upon what, then, would I have you focus your attention today? The answer is in the heart of each of these detestable actions, especially the seven listed in verses 16-19. Each of them involve our relationship with others.

If you will look at these seven items listed, you will notice that they are built on our perception of and interactions with others. Can I be arrogant without comparing myself to the value of others? Can I lie without trying to mislead? Innocent blood shed by my hand obviously belongs to another. The wicked scheme of my heart is to use others for my personal gain. Feet running to evil are trampling over others. A false testimony wounds another, and the trouble stirred among brothers affects entire families.

We often forget that many of our sins are doubly harmful because they touch more lives than our own. If you boil these issues down, what God truly hates is the self-centered heart and motivation that is rampant in our culture. Don't fall in that trap today. Choose to serve others. Live to honor God in your every interaction today.

Consider the Path

Today's devotion from Proverbs 4 and 5.

These two chapters paint a picture. We see two paths set before us and forming a choice that must be made individually. On the one hand, there is a straight path. It is the path of the guarded heart. Some might describe this particular path as, well, boring. It doesn't fluctuate. It doesn't change. It isn't overly stimulating or exotic. It is well-worn, trusted, and clearly marked.

On the other hand, we find a path that seems attractive. It is exciting and offering adventure. It is actively sold to us by those venturing on it. They appeal to us in many ways. They attempt to seduce us onto the path they are traveling. This path is the opposite of the other. It is flashy and extravagant. It is seductive and dangerous. We know which path we should walk, but the question is, "Why do we seem to drift toward the path we know we shouldn't be on?"

I get energized in a new project, like remodeling our landscaping. We envisioned the change that could occur with a little sweat equity. A month and a half later, the seduction has worn off to reveal a half-completed project that is no closer to being finished than after the first day. The hard work is remaining faithful to the task until it is completed, just as the true difficulty of the straight path is being steadfast until you reach the destination.

These chapters beautifully illustrate the truth we see lived out in our culture daily. We are seduced in the excitement of the moment as we encounter the winding path, but the real difficulty in the straight path is in the discipline it takes to walk it. As I said, it is clearly marked and unchanging, which means the hard work is in the consistent walk.

Today, consider the path you are walking. Are you remaining steady on the straight path? Or are you being led astray by a seductive lie?

In Your Power

Today's devotion from Proverbs 3.

There is so much that could be selected from this proverb to focus on this morning. Verses 5 and 6 are renowned, and often appear in collections of the most recognizable sayings. The personification of wisdom is easily recognizable in the section that flows from verse 13 to verse 18. However, I am always drawn to verse 27, "When it is in your power, don't withhold good from the one to whom it belongs." (Proverbs 3:27, CSB)

In many cases, this verse includes reference to Galatians 6:10, "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith." (Galatians 6:10, CSB) The message conveyed in these two verses is that, sometimes, you have the ability to redeem or restore to a person that good and profitable thing that is theirs by right or decree. It's not mine to withhold, but it is within my reach to present it to them. So, what is the "it" that I can give?

There are times when we have the privilege of returning some thing to its rightful owner. However, the sense of this verse is not so much a material item as it is something else. It is an ideal. It could apply to the laborer who has earned his wage. It may also refer to the poor and needy who plead for assistance. In any case, the point is that you and I have within our hands the opportunity to make a difference by presenting that which is good that those who require it.

How many times have I had the power to act in a positive manner, yet refused? How many times have I been given the opportunity to invest in another, but have been too slack and undisciplined to do so? How many times have I had a window though which I could encourage, that is, if I weren't too self-absorbed. Today, let us resolve to honor God by obeying His wish. Let us decide that today, when given the opportunity, we will give good to our neighbors, and, in so doing, give glory to our Father.

 

Hidden Treasure

Today's devotion from Proverbs 2.

I recently read a story that is a little out of place in our modern era. A pastor from Colorado died. That is unremarkable in and of itself. However, it is the story behind his passing that is mysterious. You see, this pastor died on a treasure hunt in New Mexico. He was described as an adventurer and an outdoorsman. So, when he heard that a millionaire named, Forrest Fenn, in the Rocky Mountains. Unfortunately, this pastor was not the first to die in an attempt to locate the treasure.

It is easy to condemn those who have died in a search for the hidden treasure. From the safety of our homes we can offer platitudes like, "No treasure is worthy your life." However, you and I have done great damage to ourselves and those that we love. I know that I have have caused myself stress and anxiety looking for much less than treasure in my own home. I have gotten angry with my children and fussed on them for losing things as silly as a remote control (like walking to the tv would hurt me.)

There are some things, however, that you and I should spare no expense in pursuing. Among those is wisdom. Solomon writes, "if you seek it like silver and search for it like hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and discovers the knowledge of God." (Proverbs 2:4-5, CSB)

Why?

Why will the search for wisdom lead you to a reverence for God? The answer is quite simple: knowledge can be gained in many places, but God alone and give the gift of true wisdom. The difference is in purpose. Knowledge is the possession of facts. Wisdom is the ability to skillfully act based on fact. It is often applied to warfare or administration. Wisdom helps us understand that is not enough to know something. Knowledge is only useful and productive in its being acted upon and shaping us.

Many people know things, but God alone can give us the ability to skillfully live truth. If you are seeking knowledge, find it where you can. If you seek to live in a way that surpasses the expectations of this broken world, that is not a journey into the wilderness, but the very throne of God.

The Beginning of Knowledge

Today's devotion from Proverbs 1.

The proverbs were written by a very wise man. A very wise man who did something incredibly stupid. He forgot his own advice it would seem. What advice would that be? Well, that's a multifaceted answer. For example, Solomon writes that the wise man continually grows in knowledge. He is learning and discerning as more information becomes available. Solomon, however, forgot to be discerning. He learned from his foreign wives and their pagan cults, but he did not discern.

In his assimilating their cultic practices, he forgot to fear the LORD above all. He forgot his father's instruction. Instead, he was enticed by sinners. He was persuaded. An ambush was sprung on him that led to his downfall. He traveled the road with those who willingly and willfully ran toward evil and destruction. Before he realized what was happening, he was with them. He was them.

There are two truths that I think are key. First, one of the greatest pieces of wisdom that we can learn from Solomon is a profound warning. If one of the most intelligent men in history, one who was divinely gifted with above average wisdom, can fall in these pitfalls, we must not kid ourselves that we are immune. You. Can. Fall.

Secondly, his downfall, like our own, is rarely the sudden and fathomless drop we envision. We mistakenly believe we can ride closely to the edge in safety because we will be able to see and react before it is too late. Instead of the terrifying scene we imagine, our demise often begins with a mundane decision to follow an unremarkably enticing path.

In short, the difference between life and death is in the perspective we have the moments before we move. The beginning of destruction is in the small, the uninteresting, or slightly seductive. The beginning of wisdom is the exact opposite. The beginning of wisdom is found in that unbroken view of the immensity and measure of God in which we find fear that inspires reverence.

Before you act today, ask yourself, what is your perspective?

Hallelujah!

Today's devotion from Psalms 146 through 150.

These last five psalms are Hallelujah Psalms. They begin and end with the praise of God. Their unique collection at the conclusion of Book V causes many to study them in order to learn from the similarities and connections they share. They form an incredibly optimistic ending to this beloved book. Instead of drawing attention to their collective beauty, however, I would like for us to take special note of one profound and ever-present truth that reverberates throughout the Psalms.

As these Hallelujah Psalms begin, we see the expected object of our praise identified as God. Psalm 146 begins, "Hallelujah! My soul, praise the LORD. I will praise the LORD all my life; I will sing to my God as long as I live." (Psalm 146:1-2, CSB) This is to be anticipated from the first word, hallelujah.

However, instead of describing why God is worthy of his undying praise, the psalmist turns his gaze a little closer to home. Instead of positively identifying the admirable attributes of God, the psalmist prefers to apply a negative reasoning for God's greatness by issuing a comparison. Remembering that many psalms were written by men of renown like David, Moses, and Solomon, the psalmist warns, "Do not trust in nobles, in a son of man, who cannot save. When his breath leaves him, he returns to the ground; on that day his plans die." (Psalm 146:3-4, CSB)

Do you catch what the psalmist is doing? He is discrediting the authors of the psalms. He is undermining the very men who were inspired to record these very words. In truth, he is disparaging himself, equally. The question needs to be asked, "Why?" However, you already know the answer. There is no special significance in the men who offer praise. Moses died before the Promised Land was realized. David could not save his newborn son. Solomon, for all his wisdom, presumably lost his own faith.

No. The psalmists were merely men, mortals through and through. There is no hope in a David, a Moses, or a Solomon. There is no hope in a Clinton, an Obama, or a Trump. There is no hope in a Billy Graham, an Adrian Rogers, or a Jeremy Byrd. There is only one deserving of our hope and worthy of a hallelujah (which literally means "praise the LORD"). He is the LORD, God Almighty.

"Happy is the one whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them. He remains faithful forever, executing justice of the exploited and giving food to the hungry. The LORD frees prisoners." (Psalm 146:5-7, CSB)

 

Who Trains My Hands for Battle

Today's devotion from Psalms 144 and 145.

I'm afraid our culture has a mistaken impression of God and our faith. In many ways, it seems as if those with little to no understanding of our faith somehow believe that God is some mildly benevolent if not moderately impotent being that is, in many ways, an eternal wimp. They seem to have limited God's characteristics to those traits that do not offend their modern sensibilities. God loves, but would never judge. God coddles, but never disciplines. God turns a blind eye to their transgressions, but strongly disapproves of those committed by their social/cultural/political counterparts. In their estimation, God is mild, passive, and weak.

David describes God as the One who trained him for war. This is a man who faced battle, not from a safe distance in a bunker. David felt the heat of battle rage around him. He smelled the bitter mixture of bile, sweat, and blood. David fought in the lines with swords and shields as men faced one another in combat. Many of these battles occurred in defense of wives and children encamped a short distance away from the skirmish. In fact, David felt the terror of realizing the innocent had been swept away.

Our culture has sterilized our faith. It is now clean and tidy. The sharp edges have been padded for the protection of our comfort and conscience. We take the attributes of God that we like and place them on signs and placards. We wear trite sayings on t-shirts and bumper stickers. Our culture has adopted this soft view of God because so many of our churches have forgotten that ours is a God who's very word, "is living and effective and sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as to divide soul, spirit, joints, and marrow; it is a judge of the ideas and thoughts of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12, CSB)

We have forgotten that Paul was led by the Spirit to equip us for spiritual warfare and that those first members of Christ's glorious church paid for their faith with their very lives. Ours is not a tame religion, but a call to radical living. We denounce the comforts and niceties of this world because we live in the certain knowledge of a Kingdom that is to come. We stand in Christ to struggle against sin and to carry the gospel banner forth as light warring against the darkness to illumine the truth for those around us.

Make no mistake. We may not be called to physical skirmishes, but we still need to seek the God who trains our hands for battle.

The Door of My Lips

Today's devotion from Psalms 140-143.

I grew up on a farm. We would work in the fields, care for the cattle, mend the fences, and haul hay. I say this because, in my mind, I'm still a strong young buck who is able to do anything I set my mind to accomplish. In actuality, I got a job in a restaurant when I was 16, and really didn't work all that much on the farm. I'm not as young as I think I am, and I've never been as strong as I might like to pretend.

I remember one occasion that illustrates my point. Not long after moving into our new home, I set about building a playhouse for the kids. I began construction. I used blocks for the base, build the framework, and began putting it together without much issue. However, near the end of the project I noticed some shifting on the blocks that forced me to move the entire playhouse just a few inches.

No problem!

I found an old metal t-post, and went to leverage the playhouse into position. Only, I couldn't move it. Fortunately for me, a friend just happened to stop in about the time all this was happening. I immediately knew I couldn't move the clubhouse, but I couldn't let him know that. Without any thought, he nonchalantly grabbed the t-post from me, told me to position it as he lifted, and raised it like it was nothing. We all need a little help from time to time from someone who is more able. It may hurt our pride, but it is the truth.

David realized his limitations. In Psalm 141 he recognized his inability to overcome the temptation and sin that came his way. He needed someone to, "...set up a guard for (his) mouth," and, "keep watch at the door of his lips." (Psalm 141:3, CSB) Beyond just the sins of commission, which are so easy to see, he knew he needed help beyond his words and actions. He needed someone to guide his heart.

If we're being honest, we all need these same things in our lives. I don't know what temptations I will face today or tomorrow, but I do know that I need help overcoming them.

My Bones

Today's devotion from Psalm 138 & 139.

You know, I'm almost 40 years old, and, to my knowledge, I have broken exactly one bone in my life. It didn't happen as a kid, because I was always a very cautious child. I didn't break the bone when I was twelve and got a motorcycle. I was too afraid to drive it fast. No. I broke the very tip of my left thumb when I had a bicycle wreck as a 34 year old.

Yes. A bicycle. Yes. A 34 year old.

You would never know this tidbit about me unless I told you that story. You can't see my bones. You can't tell the very tip of my thumb was broken. There is no visible evidence or scaring. Nothing. Nevertheless, God knew before it was broken. Not even my bones are hidden from him.

The author of the 139th psalm realizes that there is no place hidden from God. There was no facet of his life that was unknown to God. The psalmist credits God with more than simply knowing about him. The psalmist actually credits God with forming him, knitting him together in the womb, and making him in a wondrous way.

More than that. The psalmist believes that God has actually already written al the days of his life and planned them out before a single one began. This realization causes him to exclaim, "God, how precious your thoughts are to me; how vast their sum is!" (Psalm 139:17, CSB)

Have you ever considered how overwhelming it is to know that God thinks about you? He considers you? Cares for you? Plans for you? Even this moment, no matter what you are going through, was not unknown to God. Instead, He is weaving your life together and this moment, regardless if it is up or down, is part of His overall plan.

God sees. God knows. God cares.