8 Key Takeaways from the Psalms

I’m sharing today from The NIV Bible blog.

8 Key Takeaways from the Psalms

The psalms represent a priceless treasure trove of resources for relating to God in all circumstances. They instruct us in how to live, and they teach us great truths about God the great King, his sovereign rule over all things, and his plan for reconciling the world to himself through his Son Jesus, the Christ. With all their beauty and spiritually uplifting messages, here are 8 key takeaways from the Psalms.

1. The book of Psalms engages almost all of the great themes of the Bible.

Beginning with Psalms 1 – 2, the Psalter lays out the theme of —
• The righteous versus the wicked and the importance of relying on God and his Word.
• God’s sovereignty and rule over all people and nations.
• The interplay between divine and human kingship.
• God as a place of refuge for all.

2. As human words to and about God, the Psalms instruct us in myriad ways about how to worship God.

They teach us how to sing, dance, rejoice, give thanks, confess sin, grieve, express anger, make requests of God, proclaim God’s name far and wide, and more.

3. The Psalms teach us that God has sovereign rule as the great King over all things.

God rules over creation itself and over all nations and people groups — down to each individual person. As the sovereign King, God asserts his control over the most powerful forces in nature. He proclaims his authority over all the false gods of the nations, gods that were such a temptation for his own people time and time again.

4. The Psalms celebrate that God is a good God.

God is holy, loving, merciful, protective of his people, faithful, a keeper of promises, a giver of good gifts. He protects the vulnerable in society — the widow, the fatherless, the outsider, and the poor — and expects his representatives on earth to carry out this mission.

5. The Psalms praise God for being a just God.

The Lord vindicates his people, punishes evil, and cares for the marginalized. He opposes the wicked, whether individuals (e.g., Psalms 1:4 – 6) or nations (e.g., Psalm 2), and will mete out justice for their wickedness.

Read the rest here.

Life in Exile

Photo credit by Tammi Rhoney

When you pass through the waters I will be with you.
─Psalm 43:2

Life in Exile 

By Tammi Rhoney

Many of us with chronic illnesses and pain feel like we live life in exile, separated from the rest of the world because of the isolation caused by our illnesses. With the Coronavirus causing havoc around the globe and forcing businesses, schools, churches and restaurants to close, others are going to feel the isolation and loneliness that we live with on a daily basis. I have suffered with Myalgic Encephalomyletis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS), a severely debilitating complex chronic illness that has kept me mostly housebound for twenty-seven years, almost half my life. One friend accurately named M.E. “the leprosy of the twentieth century.” It’s easy to become discouraged because we feel so disconnected, but God has a reason for our captivity.

In the book of Daniel, when Daniel and his three friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, were held in captivity by King Nebuchadnezzar, they sought to glorify God and refused to eat the king’s food and bow down to his golden image (Daniel 1:8, 3:18). They knew the Lord and wanted to obey, worship and glorify Him, even in very difficult circumstances, and they chose to trust God no matter what the outcome. God had a reason for their captivity and that was to bring glory to Himself.

The same is true for us. We worship the same God as in Daniel’s time.  While in captivity with our illnesses, we can find new ways to glorify God and worship Him. I enjoy listening to the dramatized Bible via audio on the Bible.is app because it takes less brain energy than reading and brings God’s Word alive with music, sounds and voices.  We can listen to on-line sermons, memorize and meditate on short Scripture verses, send cards to others and call someone who is lonely when we feel up to it. The more afflicted we feel, the more important it is to spend time in prayer, praise and worship to God each day and keep our focus on Him and not on our circumstances. Psalm 16:8 says, “I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”  

There are some similarities and differences between Daniel and his friends’ life in exile and our daily exile caused by poor health. One main difference is that we know God sent Israel into exile as punishment for their sin, while today’s chronic illnesses often are not God’s punishment for specific sins, but part of living in a fallen world. Both are from God’s Hand (Job 2:10, Isaiah 45:7). Scripture says that God is completely Sovereign and free to do as He wills for His own glory (Psalm 15:3; 103:19). His Sovereignty determines the length, duration and severity of our illnesses, just as He determined the duration of captivity for Daniel and his three friends. If it is God’s will, He chooses when and where to deliver us, how and when only He knows (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Daniel and his friends didn’t know that they would be delivered from the fiery furnace and lion’s den, but even if they were killed, they still intended to remain true to God (Daniel 3:16-18).

They also didn’t know that a theophany of Christ would appear with them in the furnace that was heated seven times hotter than normal (Daniel 3:19, 25). God chose to reveal His awesome power in and through them as their clothes were not even singed and there was no smell of smoke on their garments (Daniel 3:27). Dr. Bill Barcley, our senior pastor, said, “God reveals His power and glory in and through us, especially in times of trial and through our perseverance.”

We’re never alone; God promises to be with us because we are His very precious, redeemed people (1 Peter 2:9). Remember that God says, “I have redeemed you, I have called you by name, you are Mine” (Isaiah 43:1-3, ESV). Yet God doesn’t always save His saints from death or disease. Our calling is to trust and obey Him and leave the rest in His Hands.  As Paul proclaimed, weakness is one of the ways God displays His strength and power through us (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

Life in exile is fruitful because:

Even as believers, we are a very sinful, idolatrous people, but thankfully our sins are covered by Christ’s precious blood (1 John 1:9).

Sometimes God chooses to remove all distractions from our lives so that He becomes our most important and treasured possession.

While life in exile is not fun, it’s sometimes necessary in God’s plan. We should ask Him to help us give thanks to Him for this time of refining in our lives and for how He’s going to use these fiery trials for our good, the benefit of others and His glory (Romans 8:28).

When It Feels Like God’s Not Doing Anything

Sharing today from the True Woman Blog at Revive Our Hearts.

When It Feels Like God’s
Not Doing Anything

One of my favorite ways to study Scripture is to consider the mindset of those in each Bible story. (Perhaps this is why I love the Old Testament so much.) What was Noah’s wife thinking when they were seventy-five years in to building the ark and there was still no water? What was going through Sarah’s mind when not just once, but twice, Abraham made her join a king’s harem? 

What doubts about God did Joseph struggle with after the cupbearer forgot about him in prison? Did Moses feel rejected by God as he fled into the wilderness after killing the Egyptian? What was Daniel thinking as he and his friends were being marched as prisoners to Babylon? What about his mother? Was she killed? 

It puts a different spin on things to think of these Bible characters as real people we’d probably have over for dinner, had they been born in our era. Because that’s what they were—real people, with real struggles, real doubts, real fears and issues and hopes and dreams and thoughts. 

And just like we struggle to believe God is working in our lives, I have no doubt they did too. We can simply turn the page to see the outcome of their story, but some of our favorite Bible heroes waited years to see God’s active hand in their lives. 

Yet God Was Still Working

Actually, Hebrews 11:39 says all of them are still waiting, seeing only glimpses of God’s promise in their day. Yet many (especially those listed in Hebrews 11) are commended for their faith. They didn’t lose heart; they believed God. But the question is, can we say the same for ourselves?

When circumstances turn sour or take too long, it’s easy to think God’s forgotten us or would rather not deal with our issues. But to think He isn’t doing anything—to think God doesn’t care—is simply not true. He is still just as much in the details and the outcome of our lives as He was in Bible times. 

The stories we read in Scripture aren’t just there for our entertainment, but to remind us that He is still working. God is still active and powerful and sovereign and providentially aligning all the details, even when it doesn’t feel like it. 

Consider David:

It’s no secret that David struggled with doubts of God’s care and concern. In Psalm 13:1 we see David crying out to God, “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” He was anointed as the next king of Israel, yet was chased in the wilderness for years on end by Saul who longed to see him dead. Yeah, if I were David, I would have wondered too.

Yet God was working in David’s life, solidifying his faith and preparing him to be king. And what’s more, God was indeed doing something! Just look at the Psalms we have because of David’s time in the wilderness. While David hid in caves, seeking for encouragement through song, God was writing His Word! 

Read the rest here.

An Old Telephone

In keeping with my current prayer theme, Pat Knight has some very wise words to share with us about the power of prayer.

The trumpet-shaped hand-held listening device is suspended from a metal cradle on the side of the imposing oak cabinet. While listening to conversation with one instrument, one would talk into the protruding snout on the front of the large, antique telephone. The old, original telephone is now mounted on the wall in my parent’s home. The wood has been refinished but stress marks remain from years of use.

By the time I was enamored with the telephone in my teen years, the communication apparatus had diminished in size to a small plastic box with an all-in-one listening and speaking hand set. I was physically limited only by the length of the cord attaching the hand set to the phone box.

Today I use either a cordless telephone or a cell phone, an electronic wonder the size of a deck of cards. I can use the cordless phone throughout my house and around the yard. The amazing cell phone seems limitless with the ability to send electronic messages, click photographs, or transmit and receive messages even as we travel in a vehicle. What incredible changes have occurred during the century since Alexander Graham Bell invented the first rudimentary telephone in 1876!

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The concept of a massive network of telephone cables transmitting messages between countries, traversing oceans, and penetrating remote areas would have seemed unfathomable to its original inventor. Yet, electronics have now significantly shortened the distance between people and nations. The universal 911 emergency call system, providing immediate medical response, has proved an unforeseen adjunct to the telephone.

As sophisticated as we consider our present day system of communication to be, there are still dead spots with cell phones or power interruptions with land-based telephones. Isn’t it a relief that we don’t have to depend upon a man-made device in order to communicate with God? 

Do we operate on the assumption that God is in heaven and we are on earth, creating light years of travel between us? God’s Word dispels that notion: “Those who obey His commandments live in Him, and He in them” (1 John 3:24).  The Creator spoke earth and its inhabitants into existence. He walked and talked with the first humans in the Garden of Eden. Ever since those early times, God has communicated with man and encouraged His children to talk with Him. God desires to live within our hearts, creating a unique, intimate emotional and spiritual relationship.

Our finite minds misconstrue our human boundaries with God’s omnipotence, minimizing His power. We dare not expect God to conform to our human limits. He is the Almighty God, our sovereign Lord, and supreme Creator. We are His creation. God merely speaks and His children hear His voice. Because He loves us, God desires to fellowship with each of us. “And our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). Not all of us understand the technology of sound waves, but we respond by talking. When God speaks through the Holy Spirit, we readily hear Him, although we may not fully understand the intimacy of the Trinity.

When God spoke, Elijah didn’t hear Him in the fantastic windstorm, the earthquake, or in the fire (2 Kings 19:11-12) as might be expected, but in a gentle whisper which Elijah clearly heard. God is not in the habit of shouting to converse with His children. He speaks in love and peace, just as a parent cradling a child closely speaks in a soft voice. As His children, we are attuned to the voice of our heavenly Father. “He who belongs to God hears what God says (John 8:47).

Some people may hold the view that love and verbal communication developed among men as they evolved into social beings. However, we are commanded, “Let us love one another, for love comes from God”  (1 John 4:7). God is the author of love and conversation, which He initiated with the first people He created and promises with all who follow Him. “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

It is to our advantage that our conversation with God is quiet and reliable. The Holy Spirit can discern our thoughts; able to convert our mere groans into requests to God, for He hears everything we say (Romans 8:26). Occasionally interferences occur with man’s inventions, but with God there is never a loss of power or bad connections with heavenly communication. God hears and responds to every one of our prayers. “This is the assurance we have in approaching God:  that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (1 John 5:14). 

Try casting your cell phone aside for a day and grasp the confidence that assures your connection to the greatest source of power in the universe. God is only a spoken word away, lovingly inhabiting our inner being, always waiting to hear from His creation.  Spend time in heavenly conversation, pouring out the needs and desires of your heart, tempered with praise and thanksgiving for your Lord and His marvelous works.

Ps46-10-StarryCometSky--AMP Over the years, as the telephone has transitioned into more sophisticated technology, usage and maintenance fees have sky-rocketed, presenting us with the opportune time for conversation with our heavenly Father, with absolutely no associated financial costs.  We need never consider prayer a burden, reminding us of the towering, imposing antique telephone, but a joyful privilege with the One who loves us with holy passion. It simply requires that we express our emotions to the God who always hears our words and answers in His precise timing.

Don’t ever hang up prematurely on your call to the Lord; keep an open dialogue. And, remember; don’t do all the talking. Listen for God’s quiet voice. Prayer, like a good phone call, is the conduit for a two-way conversation. “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). In the stillness, God will speak to you.

Independence Day: One Nation Under God

Independence Day, also referred to simply as July 4th, is a federal holiday here in the United States. On this day in 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted and signed, declaring our independence from Great Britain.

Today is typically celebrated with fireworks, picnics, barbecues and family get-togethers which commemorate probably the most important day in our country’s history. As a nation, the United States of America is very blessed because of the sacrifice of all those who have fought to procure and protect our freedoms.

If we ever forget that we are One Nation Under God,
then we will be a nation gone under.
—Ronald Reagan

The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
    the plans of his heart to all generations.
Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
    the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!
—Psalm 33:11-12

Let us never forget that we are the United States of America—one nation under God —whose freedom is bought at a great price. We need to keep our country in prayer at all times. The following article was published a few years ago but is still relevant today.

Franklin Graham: How You Can Pray for America

As Americans celebrate July 4 and remember those who fought and died for our freedom, we need to take time to pray for our soldiers.

We should also pray for our national leaders. Regardless of whether we agree with our country’s policies, we have a biblical mandate to do this.

Read the rest here.

Act Justly, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly

Here is another excellent article from the True Woman Blog at Revive Our Hearts.

Act Justly, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Mic. 6:8).

This mandate in Scripture has shaped my passion for seeking justice in our broken world. The clarity of these words leaves us with no doubt as to how God wants us to spend our time on earth.

Act justly; love mercy; walk humbly with your God. I’ve always focused my primary attention on the acting justly and loving mercy portions of this command. These two seem challenging enough. It’s often overwhelming to navigate how to live out justice and mercy to the world around me.

There are millions of people worldwide experiencing injustice. How can I, a stay-at-home mom, give justice to the oppressed? It’s also so easy to feel personally entitled to mercy and yet deny giving it to others. How do I extend forgiveness to others when my flesh is not ready to release the offense? My own weakness renders me incapable of obedience.

As I’ve wrestled with the weightiness of how to act justly and love mercy, I’ve realized that it’s only possible to obey these commands in light of the gospel when we walk humbly with our God.

Humility is dependence on God. Walking in humility displays our reliance on His strength in our weakness to obey. Our obedience to God’s good commands must come from a place of humility as we rely on Him to accomplish it.

Humility in Acting Justly

Because of sin, we live in an unjust world. We are transgressors of God’s law and the consequence for our rebellion is death. But God sent His Son to live the life we could not live and die the death we should have died. God poured out His just wrath on His Son instead of on us. This great grace should humble us.

As image-bearers of the God of justice (Isa. 30:18) and recipients of our just status in Christ (Rom. 5:1), we reflect His heart to the world when we seek justice for all people.

Seeking justice can be overwhelming, considering the effects of sin in our world:

  • 150 million children are vulnerable in our world today due to fatherlessness and poverty.
  • 45 million image-bearers are living in modern-day slavery.
  • 65 million refugees are currently seeking refuge after fleeing their homes due to war, famine, and persecution.
  • Every year, over 50 million babies are murdered in their mothers’ wombs.

I look at those numbers, and then I look at me. I don’t see any way for me to make a difference. This is what my enemy wants me to think. He wants me to keep my focus on me and my strength so that I’ll believe that I can’t do anything to help. And if I were depending on myself to accomplish justice for the vulnerable, that would be true.

Read the rest here.

Are you at “Wits’ End Corner”?

From Streams in the Desert devotional.

Are you standing at “Wits’ End Corner,”
Christian, with troubled brow?
Are you thinking of what is before you,
And all you are bearing now?
Does all the world seem against you,
And you in the battle alone?
Remember—at “Wits’ End Corner”
Is just where God’s power is shown.

Are you standing at “Wits’ End Corner,”
Blinded with wearying pain,
Feeling you cannot endure it,
You cannot bear the strain,
Bruised through the constant suffering,
Dizzy, and dazed, and numb?
Remember—at “Wits’ End Corner”
Is where Jesus loves to come.

Are you standing at “Wits’ End Corner”?
Your work before you spread,
All lying begun, unfinished,
And pressing on heart and head,
Longing for strength to do it,
Stretching out trembling hands?
Remember—at “Wits’ End Corner”
The Burden-Bearer stands.

Are you standing at “Wits’ End Corner”?
Then you’re just in the very spot
To learn the wondrous resources
Of Him who fails you not: 
No doubt to a brighter pathway
Your footsteps will soon be moved,
But only at “Wits’ End Corner”
Is the “God who is able” proved.
-Antoinette Wilson

Sunday Praise and Worship: Psalm 99

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Here is another wonderful psalm of praise to our Creator. In this one, we are exalting the Lord because of His greatness, power and loving forgiveness. Please join me in singing this praise and worship psalm in your heart today.

Psalm 99

The Lord reigns,
    let the nations tremble;
he sits enthroned between the cherubim,
    let the earth shake.
Great is the Lord in Zion;
    he is exalted over all the nations.
Let them praise your great and awesome name—
    he is holy.

The King is mighty, he loves justice—
    you have established equity;
in Jacob you have done
    what is just and right.
Exalt the Lord our God
    and worship at his footstool;
    he is holy.

Moses and Aaron were among his priests,
    Samuel was among those who called on his name;
they called on the Lord
    and he answered them.
He spoke to them from the pillar of cloud;
    they kept his statutes and the decrees he gave them.

Lord our God,
    you answered them;
you were to Israel a forgiving God,
    though you punished their misdeeds.
Exalt the Lord our God
    and worship at his holy mountain,
    for the Lord our God is holy.


New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

The Power of #Weakness

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The Power of Weakness

By Brian Biggers

And He said to me,
“My grace is sufficient for you,
for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”
—2 Corinthians 12:9

This is one of the greatest mysteries in the Kingdom; that God will never allow His power to rest on human strength or ability, only on human weakness. It goes completely contrary to rational thinking.

All our lives we’ve been taught ‘do your best and God will do the rest’ or ‘God helps those who help themselves’. The reality of Scripture is that He waits until I’m completely hopeless before He steps in and does for me what I can’t do. When in lifeguard training we were taught that when someone was drowning we were to swim to where they were but not to attempt to help them as long as they were still struggling. If you did they would drown both of you. Wait until they had no more energy and were going under, then you can reach in and save them. I don’t need Him to help “me” do anything, since “apart from ME you can do nothing”. A life that will experience the power and presence of God’s Spirit being in me and through me what I could never be begins not with trying to do His will, but by bending my knee in His presence and humbly confessing my total inability to do anything without Him. This is the place in His Divine mystery that His power will meet me in my weakness and I will find that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”.

Sunday #Praise and #Worship: How Great is Our God

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Today we are worshiping and praising God for His greatness. The song “How Great is Our God” sung by Chris Tomlin is a JOYFUL way for us to thank and praise God for his awesome majesty and power.

1 Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised
In the city of our God, in His holy mountain.

2 Beautiful in elevation, the JOY of the whole earth,
Is Mount Zion on the sides of the north,
The city of the great King.

3 God is in her palaces; He is known as her refuge.

4 For behold, the kings assembled,
They passed by together.

5 They saw it, and so they marveled;
They were troubled, they hastened away.

6 Fear took hold of them there,
And pain, as of a woman in birth pangs,

7 As when You break the ships of Tarshish with an east wind.

8 As we have heard, so we have seen
In the city of the Lord of hosts, in the city of our God:
God will establish it forever. Selah

9 We have thought, O God, on Your lovingkindness,
In the midst of Your temple.

10 According to Your name, O God,
So is Your praise to the ends of the earth;
Your right hand is full of righteousness.

11 Let Mount Zion REJOICE,
Let the daughters of Judah be GLAD,
Because of Your judgments.

12 Walk about Zion, and go all around her.
Count her towers;

13 Mark well her bulwarks; consider her palaces;
That you may tell it to the generation following.

14 For this is God,
Our God forever and ever;
He will be our guide
Even to death.

—Psalm 48—

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If for whatever reason you cannot view this video, you can read the complete lyrics here.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.