RSS

Category Archives: Psalms

Psalm 139:23-24

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 Point out anything in me that offends you,
    and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

Psalm 139:23-24

Dear God, I love these verses, and I want to dig in to the word “anxious” at the end of 23, but before I get there, I have to say that, as great as this psalm is, there is part of it that I really don’t like. Namely, verses 19-22:

19 O God, if only you would destroy the wicked!
    Get out of my life, you murderers!
20 They blaspheme you;
    your enemies misuse your name.
21 O Lord, shouldn’t I hate those who hate you?
    Shouldn’t I despise those who oppose you?
22 Yes, I hate them with total hatred,
    for your enemies are my enemies.

What? Where did this come from? When I read these words I think about how each of us deserves what David wishes you would deliver to your enemies. We have all been wicked. We have all blasphemed. We have all made ourselves your enemies. If you start drawing a line between those who are blameless and those are are wicked, I think David might be surprised to find himself on the other side of your cut line.

But I digress. What I really want to talk about is the phrase “anxious thoughts.” I looked at some different translations to see if they used the word “anxious.” The NIV, NASB1995, and NLT used the word. The KJV and ESV just said “thoughts.” No knowing how the translating works, I am going to just keep the word “anxious” and think about that.

Test me and know my anxious thoughts.” All of the translations either use “Test” or “Try” at the beginning of the line. It reminds me of what I heard at an FCA conference when I was in high school. The speaker said (paraphrasing), “Just like when you squeeze a sponge and what inside comes out, when we are tested and pressed, what’s inside of us will come out too.” If we can take a moment in those times, either in real time or in retrospect, and prayerfully look at what came out, both in our actions and our “anxious thoughts,” maybe we can learn about something for which we need to repent and from which we need to grow and change.

Father, point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 7, 2022 in Psalms

 

Psalm 73:25-26

Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth. My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.

Psalm 73:25-26

Dear God, there is amazing truth in these two verses. I mean, really, in heaven or on earth, whom have I but you? I’ve talked over the last couple of years about the idols in my life. My dependence upon the government and its provision, the military and its protection, my job and it stability, my bank account and its adequacy, my wife and her presence, or even my own health, as the psalmist says here–these are all idols I have in my life. Frankly, I’m not exactly sure how to completely purge them except to continuously acknowledge and confess to you that I know they are there and I don’t want them to be. I shutter to think of what it would be like if any or all of them were removed from my life.

Of course, I’m thinking about the people in Ukraine right now and how none of these things are available to them. Their government and military are not predictable. Their jobs. Their money. Their loved ones. Their own health. All of it is in jeopardy. Whom have they but you?

Father, please move in the world. Make this pain count. Protect people as they try to live their lives. Use this to draw us closer to you and unite us to each other. Help us each, especially those who call on you, to examine our own hearts and repent of the things we have pursued and of which we made idols. For my part, I worship you. I will work as unto you today. Live and be glorified in and through me.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 1, 2022 in Psalms

 

Isaiah 6:8

Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?” I said, “Here I am. Send me.”

Isaiah 6:8

Dear God, when I read this in church this morning, my first thought was, “I’m not sure if I’m that brave. I don’t know if I want to be used by God to that extent.” Then I read the Gospel reading from Luke 5 when Jesus calls Peter. Again, I thought, “Better him that me.”

This is my confession to you. I want to love you. I want to serve you–to a point. I want to worship you. I want to sacrifice for your–to a point. I want to embrace your forgiveness and grace. I want to work for you–to a point. See the pattern here? I’m good with the love stuff. Forgiveness. Worship. That’s all good and well. But when it comes to serving, sacrificing and working, my first inclination is to still steer into my own comfort zone.

I’ve often joked that Noah had the worst situation of the Bible. I’d just as soon have died in the flood as go through the 100 years of building an ark, taking care of all of the animals, and then building back society. I’ve also said that if there is a nuclear bomb coming or a zombie apocalypse, I want to go in the first wave. I don’t want to be a survivor. I’ve seen the movies and it doesn’t look like the survivors are having a good time at all. When I examine myself, I suppose I’m unbelievably lazy.

As I sat in church and contemplated these things, I started to wonder how much my age has to do with my natural tendency to lethargy–well, maybe not lethargy. Safety and security might be better words. Twenty years ago, I was in my early 30s and willing to take more chances. Now, in my early 50s, I think I’m starting to feel the combination of less energy and a sense that I have less margin for error. The older I get, the more the chances I take will impact the rest of my life. Am I really ready to give all that I am for all that you are?

In the Bible in a year podcast from this morning, they read Psalm 73. It seems like a good psalm to pray to you now as my own prayer: It’s remarkably appropriate (I am bolding the beginning and end to emphasize how I am feeling):

Truly God is good to Israel,
    to those whose hearts are pure.

But as for me, I almost lost my footing.
    My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone.
For I envied the proud
    when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness.
They seem to live such painless lives;
    their bodies are so healthy and strong.

They don’t have troubles like other people;
    they’re not plagued with problems like everyone else.
They wear pride like a jeweled necklace
    and clothe themselves with cruelty.
These fat cats have everything
    their hearts could ever wish for!
They scoff and speak only evil;
    in their pride they seek to crush others.
They boast against the very heavens,

    and their words strut throughout the earth.
10 And so the people are dismayed and confused,
    drinking in all their words.
11 “What does God know?” they ask.
    “Does the Most High even know what’s happening?”
12 Look at these wicked people—
    enjoying a life of ease while their riches multiply.

13 Did I keep my heart pure for nothing?
    Did I keep myself innocent for no reason?
14 I get nothing but trouble all day long;
    every morning brings me pain.

15 If I had really spoken this way to others,
    I would have been a traitor to your people.
16 So I tried to understand why the wicked prosper.
    But what a difficult task it is!
17 Then I went into your sanctuary, O God,

    and I finally understood the destiny of the wicked.
18 Truly, you put them on a slippery path
    and send them sliding over the cliff to destruction.
19 In an instant they are destroyed,
    completely swept away by terrors.
20 When you arise, O Lord,
    you will laugh at their silly ideas
    as a person laughs at dreams in the morning.

21 Then I realized that my heart was bitter,
    and I was all torn up inside.
22 I was so foolish and ignorant—
    I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you.
23 Yet I still belong to you;

    you hold my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
    leading me to a glorious destiny.

25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
    I desire you more than anything on earth.

26 My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak,
    but God remains the strength of my heart;
    he is mine forever.

27 Those who desert him will perish,
    for you destroy those who abandon you.
28 But as for me, how good it is to be near God!
    I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter,
    and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on February 6, 2022 in Isaiah, Psalms

 

Psalm 119:176

I have wandered away like a lost sheep; come and find me, for I have not forgotten your commands.
Psalm 119:176

Dear God, this psalm seems to have the same spirit behind it as the song “Come Thou Fount.” It’s longer, to be sure, but this very last verse referencing wandering away makes me think about the last words of “Come Thou Fount:” “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart, Lord, take a seal it, seal it for thy courts above.”

Going back to the man I spoke with this weekend that I mentioned yesterday. He was talking about shame he felt when he was younger for things he had done that, frankly, nearly everyone does. That conversation and this connection between the psalmist and Robert Robinson in the 1750s (not to mention the popularity of the hymn today) just reminds me how similar we all are. I’m very grateful you hug us and love us through all of this. I’m grateful for the comfort of your Holy Spirit. I’m grateful for a God who can cut through the knots I create and help me to move forward, asking only that I try to do better for my own sake and that I forgive others.

Father, there is truly new under the sun as far as the thoughts and desires of our hearts. Technology and the changes over the last 20 years has been a little scary. The temptations are much more accessible now than they’ve ever been before. It seems it’s easier to be evil (whether it’s lusting or as simple as slandering and gossiping). So I ask the when (not if) I wander away like a lost sheep you will come and find me. I know that in your presence is where peace is. Thank you for that.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on November 17, 2021 in Psalms

 

Psalm 119:18

Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions.
Psalm 119:18

Dear God, how many times have I asked you to open my eyes? Open my eyes to see your plan. Open my eyes so I can see suffering around me that you want me to help address. Open my eyes so I can see parts of myself that need to change. There is so much I cannot see. Please open my eyes.

But the psalmist here has an interesting request. Help me to see the truths (NLT) behind what you want me to do. Most other translations use the words things (NASB, NIV, ESV) which still represents the same idea: what is it in your law, plan for me, actions for me, or instruction for me that is good and wonderful for me, whether I realize it or not? Is this suffering a wonderful truth? Is the pain I see someone else experiencing something necessary that will lead to something wonderful?

Father, help me to have the attitude of the psalmist here. I don’t only want to see what is happening around me better. I want to see the wonder of you working in it. Also, help me to see your why. I was talking with someone the other day about pornography and masturbation and the guilt that one carries because we haven’t lived up to a pure standard. The why that a young person doesn’t realize is that it infiltrates and impacts the marital sexual relationship if it’s allowed to fester. That’s what I’m talking about here. Help me get to the why, the truth, and the good things about your law.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on November 16, 2021 in Psalms

 

Psalm 63:1

O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water.
Psalm 63:1

Dear God, I want to catch the description given to this psalm that’s actually listed in this translation: A psalm of David regarding a time when David was in the wilderness of Judah. (NLT)

Isn’t it interesting that our best praise is usually done in our struggles. Yes, sometimes we remember to to worship you when something great has just happened, but for me, my best worship is done when I’m at the end of myself. I’m out of resources. I’m out of ideas. I’m out of ability. I’m out of hope. That’s when I’m reminded of who you are compared to me and I find myself saying words like David said here.

I talked with my son recently about a regret I have from his childhood. I was struggling through being unemployed and I decided to be transparent with my children and let them see my frustration and concern. Over the last 10 year or so, I’ve regretted that decision, thinking that young children, less than 10 years old, need to feel a sense of security and don’t need the burden of my stress. When we talked, however, he contradicted me and told me that as a man now, he appreciates what I did because he got to see me model how to deal with stress like that. He saw me praying. He saw me exercising a lot. He saw me trying and not quitting. So that ended up being a teachable moment to him, but it started with the struggle, followed by him witnessing how my faith in you integrated into my response to the struggle.

Father, there are struggles now that still keep me humble. Keep me hungry for you. Keep me thirsty for you. Thank you for reminding me during the hard times that you are my hope, comforter, and God. I search for you and cling to you in a dry and parched land. Right now, at least figuratively, our nation feels dry and parched. But I will rest in you and worship you.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 7, 2021 in Psalms

 

Monuments

Dear God, I’m praying this on a significant day. It marks the 20-year anniversary of the attacks al-Qaida did on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and it also marks the one-year anniversary of my father-in-law’s passing.

One of my first thoughts today was to look back to one year ago and remember everything you did for us that day. In retrospect, it was truly remarkable. Through a series of events that frustrated me at the time, I happened to walk in on my wife within two minutes of her having found her dad on the floor. We didn’t know it at that moment, but he had been gone for several hours at that point. She had last seen him the day before. Going back further, it’s a remarkable miracle that he was even living next door to us when he died. There is so much to remember of what you have done for us. My wife was talking this morning about being torn that, on the one hand, he died alone and she wishes she could have been there with him, but, on the other hand, his death was apparently quick and didn’t involve the trauma of EMTs resuscitating him, Emergency Rooms, hospitals, nursing homes and rehab facilities (especially in a time of COVID when she wouldn’t have been able to care for him like she wanted. He got a quick, peaceful and pretty dignified death, all things considered. I would say that any of us, if given the option, would opt in for something similar. So you were really good to all of us a year ago, and although the loss still hurts, which it should, there are some real elements to it that are worth of us worshipping you for your goodness.

Then there is the 20th anniversary of 9/11. I asked my wife this morning if she finds it peculiar that, as a society, we tend to commemorate the days of defeat. Pearl Harbor. Remember the Alamo. 9/11. I’d be curious to know if the French commemorate the day the Germans rolled in back in 1939. Do the Germans remember D-Day or the day they surrendered to the allies? Is it peculiar that we, as a nation, gravitate towards these days of loss and pain? As I’ve thought about it since my conversation with my wife this morning, I’ve wondered if there is something about the pain that unites us, and, at least for a moment, we are drawn to setting aside all of our differences and having something that we can equally share? I still remember all of Congress holding hands on the Capitol steps in 2001 and singing “God Bless America.”

The truth is, we learn so much more about ourselves and others–we grow so much more–in defeat than in victory. Yes, we Texans celebrate winning our independence from Mexico, but we remember more about the Alamo than we remember about San Jacinto. We remember the date of Pearl Harbor more than we remember the dates of D-Day, VE-Day, or VJ-Day. And we will remember 9/11 more than the day the Navy Seals killed Osama bin Laden. Yeah, I wonder how peculiar this is to our culture, or if others do this too.

Father, I always want to be careful to find your fingerprints on the tragedies, because you, my Shepherd, are always there. I can look back to times of great distress in my life and see the little things you did. The little provisions. The daily bread. No, they don’t always turn out the way my human mind thinks they should, but you are still there. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. Your rod and your staff comfort me. Truly, my cup is overflowing. Thank you.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
 

Psalm 95

Come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.

Let us come to him with thanksgiving. Let us sing psalms of praise to him.

For the Lord is a great God, a great King above all gods.

He holds in his hands the depths of the earth and the mightiest mountains.

The sea belongs to him, for he made it. His hands formed the dry land, too.

Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the Lord our maker,

for he is our God. We are the people he watches over, the flock under his care. If only you would listen to his voice today!

The Lord says, “Don’t harden your hearts as Israel did at Meribah, as they did at Massah in the wilderness.

For there your ancestors tested and tried my patience, even though they saw everything I did.

For forty years I was angry with them, and I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts turn away from me. They refuse to do what I tell them.’

So in my anger I took an oath: ‘They will never enter my place of rest.’”
Psalm 95

Dear God, we don’t write worship songs like this anymore. This one starts out nice enough, encouraging us to worship, but it ends with a pretty stark warning: “Don’t do what they did when I brought them out of Egypt. Worship me and do what I tell you to do.”

I wonder what it would be like if they wrote songs for Sunday like this. I’m really trying to think of any traditional hymns or modern worship songs that mention this kind of warning. Nothing comes to mind. But it’s a good reminder.

Father, there are times when I am very afraid of missing what you’re calling me to do. There are times when I put other things before you and don’t worship you. There are times when I’m selfish and lethargic. I’m sorry for all of those sins. But I am grateful. I do love you. I want to do what you’re calling me to do and love those you call me to love. Open my eyes so I can see.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 31, 2021 in Psalms

 

Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.

So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. Let the oceans roar and foam.

Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge! Interlude

A river brings joy to the city of our God, the sacred home of the Most High.

God dwells in that city; it cannot be destroyed. From the very break of day, God will protect it.

The nations are in chaos, and their kingdoms crumble! God’s voice thunders, and the earth melts!

The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us; the God of Israel is our fortress. Interlude

Come, see the glorious works of the Lord: See how he brings destruction upon the world.

He causes wars to end throughout the earth. He breaks the bow and snaps the spear; he burns the shields with fire.

“Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.”

The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us; the God of Israel is our fortress. Interlude
Psalm 46

Dear God, the increase in the Delta Variant of COVID-19 is stressing me at work. When I read this psalm this morning it help like a good comfort to me. Even in the stress of this week, I can see how some things have worked out providentially. But still, I came home yesterday feeling discouraged and overwhelmed. In fact, I’m up an hour early this morning just so I can get a head start on my day. There is a lot to do, and my time to do it is getting squeezed.

But again, when I read this psalm it helps me look at this situation and actually see how you have provided for us. I can see how you are making things easier in the midst of chaos.

There was a woman at our clinic yesterday and I could tell she was very alarmed by the increase in COVID. She asked me a lot of questions about local statistics and I was able to offer her some comfort. I at least took her from ref alert to yellow alert. I feel like that is what you are doing to me through this psalm. You are comforting me. You are opening my eyes so I can see.

Father, thank you for being my refuge and strength. Thank you for being there in my times of trouble. Thank you for caring about me in the first place. Thank you for loving me. As Jesus said in the passage I journaled through yesterday, the world can harm me, even all of the way to death, but you are still my comfort because the ultimate victory is yours, and I will dwell in your house with you forever. Thank you for everything.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 10, 2021 in Psalms

 

Psalm 111

Praise the Lord!

I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people.

How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them.

Everything he does reveals his glory and majesty. His righteousness never fails.

He causes us to remember his wonderful works. How gracious and merciful is our Lord!

He gives food to those who fear him; he always remembers his covenant.

He has shown his great power to his people by giving them the lands of other nations.

All he does is just and good, and all his commandments are trustworthy.

They are forever true, to be obeyed faithfully and with integrity.

He has paid a full ransom for his people. He has guaranteed his covenant with them forever. What a holy, awe-inspiring name he has!

Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom. All who obey his commandments will grow in wisdom.

Praise him forever!
Psalm 111

Dear God, this is just a nice psalm of worship. No asking for curses on my enemies. No laments or self pity. Just worship. Just acknowledging who you are and how you are faithful and true. It seems appropriate for a Sunday morning and at the end of a week that actually saw some nice outcomes for things I brought to you in prayer. I’ve said thank you to you a few times silently in my heart, but let me say here, thank you for everything you did this week, both the things I recognized and the things you did in the background and I had now clue (and will likely never have a clue).

I couldn’t help but see some similarities in Mary’s song (Luke 1:46-55) when she is pregnant and greeted by Elizabeth with an affirmation of what was happening to her instead of judgment and condemnation for being pregnant before marriage. She must have been nervous about how Zechariah and Elizabeth would respond to her, but as soon as she walked in the room you gave her affirmation from a third party that flooded her with relief. All she could do was spontaneously praise you right then and there. Knowing this psalm might have even influenced her words. It’s all just so great!

Father, thank you. There is still a lot that concerns me, but, at least in this moment, my joy, hope, and peace are in you. I love you. I worship you. I thank you.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 8, 2021 in Luke, Psalms

 

Tags: ,