Summer in the Psalms

 

Focusing on the Important

I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” The writer of this Psalm tells us he is on a journey… and as he looks up to the mountains he wonders where his help will come from? Certainly the Lord places family and friends in our life to make a difference, yet we are reminded that the Maker of heaven and earth is with us at all times and in all ways – no matter the situation. In the quiet moments of our lives, may we live in the reality the the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth, is with us, guiding and protecting us – at all times and in all ways.

Scripture: Psalm 121

You Can Run, but You Can’t Hide

David, traditionally thought to be the author of Psalm 139, has a deep encounter with God–and comes to realize that he can run, but he can’t hide from God. David wrestles to wrap his head around three attributes of God’s character, and ultimately accepts the fact that God isn’t who he thought God was. In fact, God is much bigger and greater, and knows everything about David–and you and me, too.

Scripture: Psalm 139

Doubting God

The Bible has a unique perspective on doubt. Religious people will say that doubt is bad, that it’s for those who are weak in faith… you just need to trust in God! While the secular person says that doubt is good. Doubt everything—don’t trust anything!

Yet, the Psalmist (and the rest of the Scriptures) don’t fall for this trap. Instead, we see that doubt isn’t necessarily good or bad, but has a central purpose- to lead us into a higher expression of faith that transforms us and takes us deeper.

Because of his personal experiences and thought process, Asaph (the Psalmist) openly struggled with the age-old problem of why the innocent suffer and the wicked prosper. Yet, it was also an experience (with God) that recalibrated his perspective that present realities are not ultimate realities.

Scripture: Psalm 73; John 20:24-28

In His Presence

In a world that glorifies busy schedules, to-do lists, and over achievement we can easily become focused on all that there is to do. Additionally, Christians can easily become stuck in the routine of attending church on Sunday and miss the focus on God’s presence. In Psalm 84 the psalmist reminds us that God’s presence should be our primary priority in life. We can be easily distracted by many things in this world, but surely one day in God’s presence is better than a thousand elsewhere.

Scripture: Psalm 84

His Love Endures Forever

Some say modern worship songs just repeat themselves over and over again. If that is true, then Psalm 136 should be considered a modern day worship song – even though it’s 2,500 years old. By repeating itself, we are reminded of the importance of the words: “His Love Endures Forever.” Just as the people of Israel – who experienced all the plagues, saw the Red Sea part and their enemies swallowed up in it – needed a reminder that God’s love endures forever, so also do we! Most of us are encouraged whenever we hear positive news of any sort…just think of how much more we would be encouraged as we remember God’s faithful love all throughout our life. Make it a goal this week to think through your own story and be reminded of God’s presence, provision and protection all throughout your life.

Scripture: Psalm 136

Coming Out of Hiding

In the Bible, King David is known as the man “after God’s own heart”. He was powerful and handsome, anointed by God – this towering religious and political figure. And he had this hidden, but giant secret: he was a murderer, adulterer and a liar.

In Psalm 51, King David confesses his sin to God as he asks for forgiveness and seeks genuine repentance. This model of prayer teaches us that confession is about coming out of hiding. And the best thing for us is to be found out. Because that’s actually when you experience healing.

We can be openly honest with God and others because we know God is full of love and mercy. Christianity says that your identity is not based on what you’ve done, but on what God has done for you. We can say this because on the cross God hid his face from Jesus, so that God could hide his face from your sin.

Scripture: Psalm 51; 1 John 1:8-9; James 5:16

The Lord Is My Shepherd

Psalm 23 is the most beloved of the Psalms and is, perhaps, the most loved chapter in the entire Bible. It is a shame that most of the time we hear Psalm 23 is at funerals. It is a shame because Psalm 23 really is a psalm to live by—it is a psalm for you and I to apply every day of our lives, and it is the psalm that reminds us that the Lord is my shepherd.

King David, a man of power and authority, didn’t tell his people that they should simply think about God’s love and concern – David told his people, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” It’s time we stop talking mere theology and spiritual things and remember that the Lord is my shepherd. And as my Shepherd, He cares for us, walks with us through the dark times of life, supplies all our needs because He loves us and wants to spend eternity with us. We just need to make Him our Shepherd.

Scripture: Psalm 23

Praise: Sing A New Song

We naturally praise our favorite authors, best sport teams, vintage wines, delicious food, great actors, fancy vehicles, our loved ones and the list goes on. CS Lewis says this about praise, “I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation.” Psalm 98 reminds us that our praise needs to be to God for the faithfulness and salvation that He alone provides for us.

New Life is a wonderful, intergenerational and diverse gathering of God’s people. We are fortunate that we experience praising God in not just one song or style of expression. As people encounter God for the first time or when a believer experiences God in a fresh way, we can’t help but sing a new song. Maybe for some of us we have taken our faith for granted, and so there is nothing new to sing about. May this message remind us all that God uses us to partner with Him to help others experience Him again for the first time and to remember the natural response is to praise Him. If our nose gets bent out of joint because we ‘don’t like something’ in the church service maybe it’s time to evaluate, “Am I coming to church to please myself or to praise God for all He has done for me?”

Scripture: Psalm 98, Ephesians 5:19, John 3:16

The Lost Art of Lament

Most of contemporary church worship music is high energy, uptempo, happy-go-lucky praise songs. So, one is shocked to hear that the most common genre of the Psalms – ancient Israel’s and Jesus’s worship book – was lament (a passionate expression of grief or sorrow.). The most common theme of the Psalms is lament. Yet, virtually zero of the top 150 worship songs played in churches right now include lament – grieving, mourning, etc. Over and over again, the Psalmists are brutally honest with their grief, doubt and anger with God.

Jesus, too, used this very same Psalm of lament as he was dying on the cross. Not only, then, does he model this for us, but he also comforts us when we do not feel the presence of God in the midst of suffering because that’s exactly what he himself went through on the cross – he was abandoned by his own Father.

Meaning, God is not only the God of the sufferers, but the God who suffers. As one author puts, “Instead of explaining our suffering, God shares it — because He knows mere answers are cold and His arms are warm.”

Fascinating, though, is that most of the psalms of lament (including Psalm 22) end with hope and praise. Just as we can follow Jesus in grieving, we can also follow Jesus in grieving with hope.

May we honestly express our grief to God knowing that because of the cross He is a God who is with us in pain and because of the resurrection He will eventually rescue us.

Scripture: Psalm 22; Mark 15:33-34