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Showing posts with label Psalms. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Psalms. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A psalm that is more than just another song . . .

The psalmist begins where all of us should begin and close each day—that is, meditating on the Word of God. This is a foundational principle for sound spirituality.  It is not, however, a task that should stand over us like a heavy taskmaster.  Absolutely not! We, like the psalmist should delight in His Law—His word to us, which He intends as with Jeremiah: 
‘He has plans for us, plans to prosper us and not to harm us, and plans to give us a hope and a future.’ (Jeremiah 29:11)
These principles become very clear as we walk through this first psalm, which says: 
1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. 
3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. 
4 The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. 
5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. 
6 For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish. (King James Version (KJV) by Public Domain) 
Right away we are made aware of the fact that it really does matter what kind of company we keep, and whose advice we take. You run with a pack of thieves, or fraternize with a bunch of boozers, eventually you will become one yourself. This goes for the company you keep on television, too. Watch enough filth, and you will become dirty, too. It is just as simple as that. 
My wife and I are no prudes, but we learned a long time ago to pick and choose our company. That doesn’t mean that we avoid ‘sinners’ as it were—we’re all sinners we know that; but we don’t revel with the rowdies. Don’t expect me to laugh at a nasty joke. I won’t, so I wouldn’t encourage anyone to tell me one, or for a filthy mouth comedian to keep me from turning the knob on the television when he comes on. 
Have I done or said things that I am ashamed of now? Certainly, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t learned my lesson. And, what is that lesson? It is simply this: If I want to be blessed by God, then I must avoid these things. For I know that in the long run the ungodly will perish (v.6); and that I have a prosperous future ahead of me (v. 3.). 
In a word, I want to be a winner, and I can’t if I am not obedient to His Word. 
I remain yours for the journey,

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The God who listens . . .

Dear friends and faithful prayer partners,

Psalms 88 and the Book of Esther have always fascinated me.
The Book of Esther as you know does not mention the name God once, so you are left with only an assumption that He is there behind the scene pulling on the strings of history.

Psalm 88, however, leaves you with frustration that He’s not pulling the strings at all. You are just left there alone to dangle.

Below are a few verses of that psalm that captures the essence of this one sided dialogue. (Yes, I know that that is an oxymoron; how can a dialogue be a dialogue and be one sided? Well, after you read these verses I will suggest why it is.) 

Here are the verses:
1 Lord, you are the God who saves me; day and night I cry out to you.2 May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry.3 I am overwhelmed with troubles and my life draws near to death.5 I am set apart with the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom you remember no more, who are cut off from your care.6 You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths.8 . . . I am confined and cannot escape;9     my eyes are dim with grief. I call to you, Lord, every day; I spread out my hands to you.13 . . . I cry to you for help, Lord; in the morning my prayer comes before you.14 Why, Lord, do you reject me and hide your face from me?16 Your wrath has swept over me; your terrors have destroyed me.17 All day long they surround me like a flood; they have completely engulfed me.18 You have taken from me friend and neighbor— darkness is my closest friend.
Some pretty straightforward talk here. The psalmist is not only bearing his soul but he is letting God have it with both barrels. Read it, he blames God for not showing up when he needed Him and furthermore he accuses God of getting him in the mess he is in. 

Now, if you come from the religious tradition I was raised in that is one of the things that you just do not do—that is talk back to God and blame Him for your troubles. You might think it but you sure wouldn’t publish it. However, talking back to God is precisely what this psalmist did. 
And, what does God do? Nothing. God just listens. 

Now, let’s fast forward to today. What’s your beef? An incurable disease? Or is it financial problems? Maybe a cheating husband or wife? It could be a child that has gone bad. Whatever it is, Psalms 88 is a good example of a listening God, and The Book of Esther let’s us know that He is working behind the scenes to work out His purposes in our life. 

That is not to say that we don’t suffer a whole lot just because we are creatures living in a hostile environment. The world is fallen. Evil. Under the almost overwhelming influence of the old Devil himself. He does walk around like a roaring lion in places like Afghanistan and the streets of Chicago, and in the very city where you live. He’s there. We cannot deny that. 

But, I can assure you God is listening and working to fulfill His purposes. How can I be so sure. Well, that’s easy—it’s all because of Calvary. 

Calvary assures me that God was listening, and the Resurrection assures me that He is working, as it were, behind the scenes to accomplish his purposes in my life. 

The Pietà by Michelangelo I feel captures the essence of Calvary. So at the risk of you thinking that I have suddenly become Catholic I am suggesting that you click onto the image above and watch the short video about this marvelous sculptor. Listen to the commentary. It is moving. 

So, yes, I can say, without hesitation that Calvary tells me that God is listening and that He cares enough to identify with us in our suffering. He is there and He is not silent. 

So, let’s make it a habit to listen to Him also.  

Yours For A Greater End Time Harvest,

Jim M. Roane
P.S. Continue to pray for our ministry in the former Soviet Union and in Southern Asia.

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Keeping God Informed

Someone has said, we cannot tell God anything He doesn't already know. When we pray, we simply put into words what He's been aware of all along. 

Missions is no exception, either.

That doesn't make prayer unnecessary; rather, it encourages us to pray. We find relief in talking to Someone who knows us and our situation fully. It's a comfort to know that God's response arises not from information we give Him, but from His perfect knowledge of our circumstances. He knows all conditions-past, present, future-that bear on our well-being. 

"Your Father knows," Jesus said in Matthew 6:8. He knows our thoughts, out intentions, our desires; He is intimately acquainted with all our ways (Psalm 139:3). He knows the anguish of our heart, the strain of continual frustration, the enemies inside and outside that war against our souls. 

So, can we presume to dictate the time and terms of our deliverance from trials or adversity? Can we say our way is better, more likely to develop our soul? No, we cannot teach God anything. He alone knows the way to bring us to glory. Out of all possible paths, He has chosen the best, the route most adapted to who we are and what He has in store for us. 

We cannot teach God knowledge, but we can love and trust Him. That's all He asks of us.

After 40 years of missionary service, I can personally vouch for God's protection during times of intense bombings (in Egypt and Lebanon), kidnappings (our son. Greg was kidnapped), delirious illnesses in swamp infested jungles in the Philippines and in the mountains of Nepal. He was there. Protecting. Guiding.  Watching. Prompting faithful prayer warriors back home to pray.

Thanks for the prayers. And, thank God for the opportunity to pray! Knowing that He already knows and eagerly anticipates our prayers. Not to inform, but rather to prompt us to pray, so that we may draw closer to him and acknowledge our dependence on His saving Grace.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Devotions From The Psalms: Week Five

Previous Devotion
The struggles of youth are real, and they are serious. Hormones run rampant, testosterones are high. Curiosity is at its peak. And, life long habits are being formed. So, it is wise for a young man, or woman to ask, How can I keep pure? Saying, No! is not enough. Passion sometimes takes over, and the false notion of what love really is, confuses the issue. So, how is a young man or woman to keep pure?

Well, the psalmist has the answer. He too struggled with the emotions of youth, He asks:

Beth-- 9 How can a young man keep his way pure? Then answers with: By living according to your word. In other words, to keep pure; we must live according to God’s word.

Paul the Apostle must have had this verse in mind when he advised another young man.
“Timothy,” he said, “flee youthful lusts: follow righteousness, faith, charity, and peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” (2 Tim. 2:22)

And, of course, today, the advice is still valid.

Now, let’s listen to the other ways David kept himself pure. He says:
10 I seek you with all my heart;
do not let me stray from your commands.

The Psalmist is not a passive bystander. “I will seek you with all my heart,” he affirms.

So, we see that the first step that David takes to make sure he has a pure heart, and obedient to the commands of God is that he will seek God with all of his heart.

The promise of God is, and has always been that if we seek him with all of our heart, we will find him.

Listen to God’s promise to Israel through the Prophet Jeremiah, “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13

The assurance is the same with Christ, who promised: “And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Luke 11:9

Now, let’s look at the steps David took to keep himself pure.

First of all, in verse 9, he says, a young man keeps himself pure by living according to God’s word.

Now, that is pretty good advice, when we consider all of the other possibilities. Think of the alternate paths a young person is offered in this sinful world. There is the feel good route of many talk show host, and secular psychologists. There is the easy route of giving in to peer pressure from young hedonists—and, college is full of them, today; sometimes even Christian colleges!

Temptations are pulling from every direction.

David’s answer to these distracting and sinful tugs and pulls on his life was to live according to God’s word, and to seek God with all his heart! (vs. 9, 10)
David then shows his seriousness by pleading with God to not let him stray from His commands. Of course, as we have already seen, God has no intention of forsaking anyone that seeks him with all their heart. Yet, we all must solemnly resolve to seriously seek God, and obey his Commandments—not just 10 of them; but all his commandments!

So, what did David do to fortify himself against the temptations of youth? He said,
11 I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.

David, did the right thing. He tucked God’s word away in his heart as a buffer against temptation. He also realized that all sin is ultimately a sin against God.

Solomon, David’s son, collected a list of proverbs, and it is possible that he had this Psalm in mind when he wrote: “as a man thinks in his heart, so is he:” (Prov. 23:7) Of course, we do not know for sure; but, whether he took the proverb from the lips of his father, or someone else, it still stands true.

God’s word must become part of our thinking process. And, the only way that is made possible is by filling our heart, which is the very seat of your emotions, with the words of the Lord. As Saint Augustine said, “We must think God’s thoughts after Him.”

Precious Holy Spirit, we pray today that you will strengthen us so that we may keep ourselves pure by living according to your word. For, we like David, have determined that we will seek you with all our heart. We have hidden your word in our hearts for that very purpose; therefore, we ask that you fortify us spiritually and emotionally so that we do not wander off track, and sin against you. In Christ matchless name, we pray. Amen

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Psalm 119 ~ Week Four

Week Four

Previous Devotion
In the first 7 verses of the magnificent Psalm 119, we discovered that we are happy when we walk in praise before God blamelessly and that praise prepares our hearts for understanding God’s purposes for us.

All men and women of God have a healthy appreciation for God, and of His worthiness to accept praise. Sometimes, however, we are so struck with His holiness, and our total depravity that we become frightened and intimidated. Apparently, this happened to David, for we read in verse in verse 8 says:
8 I will obey your decrees;
do not utterly forsake me.

Here the psalmist exerts his will—this we must all do!—he will obey God’s commandments.

Then in a most transparent way he says, “Do not forsake me.” We should not let this confuse us. God has no intention of forsaking him. He will never forsake us. It is we who forsake him! Jesus assured us that he will never leave or forsake us. Yet, there are times from a human perspective that we sometimes feel as if God has forsaken us. However, we must remember when interpreting this Psalm that God is not speaking here, except in an indirect way. These are the words of the psalmist. His doubts. His frustrations. His desires.

In another part of the Bible the Prophet Isaiah says,
(18) Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. (19) If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; (Isa. 1:18, 19(a)

That is God’s message to us.

Therefore, let us all determine that we will not just give lip service to God, but really following and obey Him with all of our hearts. If we do, we shall be blessed.

Father, today we confess that we do not always follow in obedience. Sometimes, we must admit, it seems more reasonable to us to fudge a little, perhaps, even tell a fib, or play the role of a hypocrite. These are not easy sins to confess, but we realize that it is necessary to walk straight and upright before you in obedience at all times, if we want your blessings. Therefore, give us the strength of heart to obey you at all times, under the most diverse circumstances. In Christ name we pray. Amen

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Devotions From The Psalms Week Three

Psalm 91 ~ Week Three
Now, let us consider this important chapter in God’s Word:
The first 8 verses are the context for the next 2 devotions; so let us look at the first 2 verses for a closer picture of what the Psalmist is saying.
The first two verses read:
‘ Aleph
1 [a] Blessed are they whose ways are blameless,who walk according to the law of the LORD.2 Blessed are they who keep his statutesand seek him with all their heart.
Many, if not most, Evangelical Bible translators translate the word ‘blessed’ as happy in these verses.
So, really what the Psalmist is saying here is, “If your ways are blameless, then you will be happy. And, if you want to be blameless, then you must walk along God’s path, and keep his Commandments, and seek Him with all your heart! And, if you do, you will be happy!”
Jesus said much the same thing in the Beatitudes, when He said:
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. (Matt. 5:6)
Now, the question today that both you and I must face is, “Are we happy?”
And, if the answer is, No; then there must be a reason.
Is it because there is sin in our lives? That is not always the case; but it is usually the first place that I go to find out why I am unhappy.
In Ephesians 4:30, Paul says:
And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. 31Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:  32And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
In light of this scripture, could it be that we are unhappy many times simply because of disobedience and that we sense that the Holy Spirit is also grieved?
I think so.
The fact is, we were made in the image of God. That’s what the Bible teaches in Genesis chapter 1, verse 26; and Romans 8:29 inform us that the purpose of Redemption is to restore us to that image.
However, many of us have remade ourselves into something that God never intended for us to be—that is, a sinner! And, when we conduct our self contrary to God’s created intentions for us, then, we will be unhappy. Why? The reasonable answer is that we are unhappy because we are not in harmony with God’s original intention. So, when that happens, we do not function properly, mentally, or spiritually.
It is just as simple as that!
Lord give me the insight to sense when I have offended you, and correct my ways to reflect your will for me in my life. May I not grieve the Holy Spirit that you have given me, and as your servant David prayed long ago, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” (Ps. 51:10) I want to be healthy mentally and spiritually. Amen.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Devotions From The Psalms Week Two

Devotions From The Psalms[i]
Introduction continued . . .

As mentioned previously, the Psalms are basically poetic prayers set to music; which, in some ways, is confusing since the central theme in most seems to be prompted by hard times. Kind of like country music songs today, you might say-Christian country, that is! People, we are reminded once again, are the same in each generation.

Our habit, however, is to talk about God, not to him. We love to discuss God, theologically. However, the psalmist already knows God intimately, so he does not wax philosophically eloquent like so many modern theologians are prone to do. No. His approach is to tell us who God is, and shows us how a devoted man responded to Him. Therefore, it seems only reasonable that we best understand the Psalms when we bow humbly before God in prayer.

Right now, for the next few weeks, we are taking a spiritual walk through Psalm 119, and may I encourage you to allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you each day as we consider this very important part of God's word.

Psalm 119 is an acrostic poem; the verses of each stanza begin with a corresponding letter of the Hebrew alphabet. This arrangement, of course, is intended to make it easier to remember each stanza and verse of the Psalm in order.

So, because of this, we understand that it is supposed to be committed to memory. So, we can assume that God considers these verses of wise counsel and insight from the Psalmist[ii] to be of the greatest importance.

Personally, I believe that David wrote Psalm 119; although, not all scholars are in agreement with this view. It appears, however, to have the Davidic flavor when it is read; and to further strengthen this opinion there is a tradition that King David used this psalm to teach young Solomon the Hebrew alphabet and theyby instill the lessons taught in each stanza in the young boy's heart.[iii]

It should also be mentioned that chapter 119 of Psalms is the longest chapter in the Bible. The reason that it has not been divided into two or three chapters, I believe, is because it should be understood as a whole.

Further, it helps us to understand, that the chapter is written from a devoted man's perspective. It is David-whom, as I said, I believe is the author-speaking to, and about God, rather than God speaking directly to him. This, however, does not take away from the inspiration of these verses, and they bear the stamp of God's approval, and are in harmony with Divine truth.
Afflictions seemed to be very common to David, as well as to many saints throughout history. Charles H. Spurgeon once said, "Trials teach us what we are."

I believe Peter must have had this thought in mind when he wrote in 1 Peter 4: 12: "Dear friends, don't be surprised by the painful suffering you are going through. Don't feel as if something strange were happening to you. 13 Be joyful that you are taking part in Christ's sufferings. Then you will be filled with joy when Christ returns in glory." (NIRV)

So, as we read this chapter, we should keep these things in mind.

Now, join with me as we journey through this exciting part of God's word.

Lord, in this journey where you lead, we will follow for you are our shepherd, and we are the sheep of your flock, and a stranger we will not follow. For as Peter said, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. (John 6: 68) Amen

[i] Introducing the Psalms
Mirrors don't lie, and neither do the Psalms, both show us exactly who we are. Mirrors show us the shape of our figure, or a bump on our nose, warts and all. The Psalms show us the shape of our souls, the pretty and the ugly.

The Psalms are basically poetic prayers set to music; which, in some ways, is confusing since the central theme in most seems to be prompted by hard times. Kind of like country music songs today, you might say-Christian country, that is! People, we are reminded once again, are the same in each generation.

Poetry is the language of the heart, and as such reflects the intensity of the soul. Prayer is the language of the soul, and as such reflects our relationship with God. Set this to music, and you have a perfect spiritual match.

Our habit, however, is to talk about God, not to him. We love to discuss God, theologically. However, the psalmist already knows God intimately, so he does not wax philosophically eloquent like so many modern theologians are prone to do. No. His approach is to tell us who God is, and shows us how a devoted man responded to Him. Therefore, it seems only reasonable that we best understand the Psalms when we bow humbly before God in prayer.

[ii] Personally, I believe that David wrote Psalm 119; although, not all scholars are in agreement with this view. It appears, however, to have the Davidic flavor when it is read. Afflictions seemed to be very common to David, as well as to many saints throughout history.

[iii] This Psalm, which is numbered Psalm 118 in the Septuagint (LXX), figures prominently in the worship of the Orthodox Church. There is a tradition that King David used this psalm to teach his young son Solomon the alphabet--but not just the alphabet for writing letters: the alphabet of the spiritual life.

Devotions from the Psalms Week One


Our devotions for this series begin with the Psalms a hymnbook for the Jews. It is, however, like no other hymn book ever written since it is also the inerrant word of God. Immediately, that statement challenges us since the Psalms contain some of the most barbaric language in the entire Bible.

For example, we read in Psalm 137:1-7 these words:

7 Remember, O LORD, what the Edomites did

       on the day Jerusalem fell.

       "Tear it down," they cried,

       "tear it down to its foundations!"

 8 O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction,

       happy is he who repays you

       for what you have done to us-

 9 he who seizes your infants

       and dashes them against the rocks.

These words, of course, were penned in a time of deep bitter distress. The exiles were in Babylon, taunted by their captors to sing songs of joy. Of course, they couldn't. The only thoughts they could conjure up were thoughts of revenge. So, naturally they composed these hateful verses. If that be the case-and it was, in my opinion-then why did God allow this to become part of Scripture?

The answer is that first of all God never shies away from reality.  He never paints a rosy picture of man or his predicament. Scripture-the Psalms included-are simply a reflection of humanity, warts and all.

So, keep in mind that Psalm 137:1-7 is basically a song in the form of a prayer and, as with any prayer, an expression that anticipates a response. In this case, God is silent and allows the psalmist to blow off steam. Which to me shows that God understands frustration. Be angry and sin not, are also the words of Scripture.

These exiles were angry, frustrated, and, yes, even bitter.

This type of reaction we will see throughout the Psalms, and from God's perspective certainly not pleasing; however. It does show His patience and His gentle kindness when he deals with fallen humanity. So, with these thoughts in mind, let us consider Psalm 1, which reads:

1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

We notice that the Psalm begins with a blessing.  God is always more anxious to bless than to curse us. Curses we bring upon ourselves; however, God wants to bless us. Throughout Scripture this has always been the case. Jeremiah, for instance, said to the bitter and broken exiles,

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Blessings, however, come with conditions. We must delight in God's laws, and meditate on them continually. That is, when we obey His laws we can count on His blessings.

E. Stanley Jones, one of the great missionary luminaries of the last century compiled all of his wisdom and experience in one final book The Divine Yes (1975) which was published posthumously. The essence of the entire book was that if we choose to live in harmony with God and nature as God intended then we will be blessed beyond imagination. In other words, we must on all occasions say "Yes" to everything God says and does. In this same vein, Paul wrote:

"For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us -- by me, Silvanus, and Timothy -- was not Yes and No, but in Him was Yes. For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us." (I Corinthians 1:19-20 NKJV).

Contrast this, as Jones on another occasion reminded us, with the "No" of Buddhism. For Buddha existence and suffering are one inextricably tied together and that horrible reality can only be eliminated by a complete annihilation or destruction of self or existence. There is no other choice. In other words, Buddha would get rid of our life problems by getting rid of life itself - which, of course, is tantamount to getting rid of your headache by getting rid of your head.

Not so with the message of good news brought about by Jesus, as even a casual study of the Beatitudes will teach us. Here are the words of that great sermon, read them for yourself and obey them and you will be blessed!

1 Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him,

2 and he began to teach them saying:

3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 Blessed are those who mourn,

for they will be comforted.

5 Blessed are the meek,

for they will inherit the earth.

6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

for they will be filled.

7 Blessed are the merciful,

for they will be shown mercy.

8 Blessed are the pure in heart,

for they will see God.

9 Blessed are the peacemakers,

for they will be called sons of God.

10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5: 1-10)