Praise and Faith

Today’s reading: Psalm 70-72; Romans 4

23 My lips will shout for joy,
when I sing praises to you;
my soul also, which you have redeemed.                                            Psalm 71:23

20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.”                                                                                 Romans 4:20-22

Praise of God and growth in faith build on each other. Praise builds faith and faith fuels praise.

Much of the content of the Psalms is praise to God. But this praise is not isolated from the realities of life, the struggles, and the seemingly hopeless dilemmas that can come to the believer. In the midst of it all, the Psalmist frequently lifts up his voice in praise for deliverance experienced or expected.

Paul, in his letter to the Romans, shows that the greatest dilemma of all is the problem of our sin before a holy God. No one is righteous. Not one. [Romans 1:18-3:20]. Yet, God manifested His righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ who shed His blood for the redemption of all who believe in Him.

Paul anticipates a question about the role of Abraham in all of this and carefully lays out the case showing that Abraham himself was justified by faith not by the law of circumcision or any other law. Abraham believed that God would fulfill His promises to make him the father of many nations despite his and Sarah’s advanced age, and that faith was counted to him as righteousness. In what might be considered an aside, Paul says, Abraham “grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God.”

How can you cultivate faith especially in what appears to be a hopeless situation? Learn the lesson from Abraham. Try giving glory to God. Give glory to Him for what He has done in the past. Praise Him for what He is doing now. Give glory to Him for His wisdom in answering prayers according to His purposes and timing. Perhaps you will see the fulfillment of your prayers, but, if not, God will be glorified and your focus will be where it should be, on Him not your problem.

Shut Mouths; Believing Hearts

Today’s reading: Psalm 68-69; Romans 3

4 More in number than the hairs of my head
are those who hate me without cause;
mighty are those who would destroy me,
those who attack me with lies.
What I did not steal
must I now restore?
5 O God, you know my folly;
the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you.                              Psalm 69:4-5

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.                                                      Romans 3:21-22a

The fear of God and the awareness of guilt revealed through His law shut self-righteous mouths and leave all mankind with no alternative than to flee to Jesus Christ for righteousness.

The Psalmist cries out in anguish for the injustice heaped on him, but, at the same time, he recognizes his own folly and wrongs. He knows that God knows them. He may have tried to hide them, but they are not hidden from the Lord. No one is completely righteous before God. True, some suffer great injustice, but such suffering does not blot out the record of sin committed and establish the sufferer as righteous before God. We are all both victims and perpetrators.

Paul tells the Romans that the law is given to shut our mouths and to hold the whole world accountable to God. Where can we turn? We can only turn to Jesus Christ through Whom the righteousness of God apart from the law is manifested. Salvation from the condemnation of the law is through Him for all who believe. In Christ, there is justification (the declaration that all debts are paid in full), redemption (the price paid to purchase freedom from slavery to sin and guilt), and propitiation (the offering made to satisfy the just wrath of God). It is a gift. It cannot be earned. It can only be received by faith.

Beware of trusting in your own works for acceptance before God. A careful look at God’s law and our own works will show that we cannot satisfy its demands. We can only shut our mouths and flee to Christ. In Him alone we find the gift of salvation which encompasses everything we need to restore us as God’s beloved children. Be sure you trust Him, not your works or a relatively better life than someone else, as the basis for your justification. We should have shut mouths and believing hearts.

Let All Fear Him

Today’s reading: Psalm 65-67; Romans 2

1 May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face to shine upon us,   Selah
2 that your way may be known on earth,
your saving power among all nations.                                                 Psalm 67:1-2

23 You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”       Romans 2:23-24

The Psalmist has a lofty view of the impact of the blessing of God on His people that spreads to all the nations.   Truly, God does rule over all the earth. He is the God of all flesh. He providentially rules over everyone and everything. Nothing escapes Him. All owe Him everything. To borrow from Churchill, “Always and ever has every person everywhere owed everything to the One God.”

But, alas, this vision of a worldwide impact of blessing and worship has been hampered by the very people who had the Word of God. Paul says, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of [them].”

How did God deal with this? He judged His people for their unfaithfulness through the captivities of the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah. But He acted for the sake of His own name to restore them to the land (Ezekiel 36:16-38).

In Jesus’ lifetime, they were faced  with the question of whether or not to believe the Messiah, the Christ whom God had sent them. Most of them failed to believe, yet according to Paul they maintained their spiritual pride and arrogance, looking down on the Gentile pagans. Romans 2 warns them and us not to be smug in our spiritual superiority. Our hypocrisy can cause the lost to blaspheme our God.

God will bring His elect from every tribe and tongue (Revelation 7:9-10). In Abraham through whom came Jesus Christ, all the families of the earth will be blessed (Genesis 12:3). Pray for the fulfillment of this promise soon. Live in such a God-honoring way as to bring glory to Him. The Psalmist had it right.  God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!” (67:7).    And they shall.

 

 

Two Ways to Live

Today’s reading: Psalm 62-64; Romans 1

5 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
7 for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.                                      Psalm 63:5-7

21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.    Romans 1:21

Mankind is divided into two groups, those who find their satisfaction and joy in God and those who neither honor Him nor give thanks to Him. There are two ways to live and both are vividly contrasted in today’s readings.

The Psalmist opens his heart again and again showing us how much he longs for God. He is like one longing for water and air. He cannot live without his God. He finds his satisfaction in Him. He finds shelter and protection in Him. He praises God with joy. He sings of Him for joy. The worship of God is not a necessary but unpleasant discipline.   He finds delight in God.

By contrast, Paul describes people who take no interest in God. They have no time to praise Him. They give Him no thanks. They presumptuously go on their merry way in foolishness. They have no excuse for their negligence, because God’s invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature are clearly perceived in creation (vs. 19-20). Rather, than worship and thank God, however, they grow more foolish and exchange the glory of God for images of animals. They worship creatures, not the Creator.

Man is made to worship God and if he will not worship God he will worship something less than God for he must have an object of worship. It is common to call our celebrities “idols”. Why not? We worship them and they encourage it. The only problem is they are fallen humans, not worthy of worship. They, too, will be called to answer for their idolatry.

Find your satisfaction and joy in the eternal triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is magnificent. He is worthy of all our praise and worship. There are only two ways to live and the choice is clear. [1]

[1] To see a presentation of the gospel go to: http://www.matthiasmedia.com.au/2wtl/

Flee to the Banner

Today’s reading: Psalm 59-61; Acts 28:16-31

4 You have set up a banner for those who fear you,
that they may flee to it from the bow.      Selah
5 That your beloved ones may be delivered,
give salvation by your right hand and answer us!                      Psalm 60:4-5

23 When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. 24 And some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved.                                                                                  Acts 28:23-24

Those who fear God and who are His beloved, show it by fleeing to the banner He has raised, the gospel of Jesus Christ where they find salvation, but dulled hearts do not respond to the message despite its clarity.

David uses a military analogy to faith and salvation. The troops are scattered and about to die. The commander sets up a banner to rally them back. They see the banner and head for it. There they are saved from defeat and the tide of victory is turned in their favor.

Why would a soldier who is in dire straits not flee to the banner raised by his commander?

Paul raised the banner of the gospel among the Jews in Rome. He used their Scriptures in his efforts to convince them. Some believed and some did not. Why not? It was not that Paul had failed to be clear. He diagnosed their condition from the prophet Isaiah. Their hearts were dull, ears nearly deaf, and they closed their eyes. The banner was raised, but they refused to flee to it.

They had their opportunity but they did not grasp it. Paul told them the message had been sent to the Gentiles and they would listen.

The task of God’s believing people is to keep proclaiming the good news of life in Jesus Christ from the Bible, accurately and faithfully, as Paul modeled. Some will believe. Some will not. Do not be discouraged. Stay the course, because to everyone who flees to the banner, God will grant salvation.

God Is For Me

Today’s reading: Psalm 56-58; Acts 28:1-15

This I know, that God is for me.
10 In God, whose word I praise,
in the Lord, whose word I praise,
11 in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can man do to me?                                                                        Psalm 56:9b-11

And so we came to Rome. 15 And the brothers there, when they heard about us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage.                                                                           Acts 28:14b-15

There is no substitute for real life experience in knowing God. Biblical truth may be perceived with the mind and believed but it becomes reality in the actual rough and tumble of life where God shows Himself to be faithful to His people.

Throughout the Psalms we are told of the trials and afflictions that come to a believer. He may be unjustly treated, falsely accused, betrayed, ridiculed, and pursued by an army. The godly man or woman clings to the Lord, delights in His law, and trusts God no matter what. Through those trials the disciple learns that even when life is difficult, God is there. God is for me.

Paul went through months of trials as a prisoner, shipwrecked, and even snake-bitten. But everywhere he went the Lord was there keeping him and using his life to minister to others. Finally, he made it to Rome and, right away, he met brothers who were anticipating his arrival. All the stress of that trip melted away as, again, God showed that He had a purpose for Paul in Rome, a purpose which included service to the church in Rome.

Paul had written earlier to the Roman Christians telling them, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32). Might this have been Paul’s way of expressing the thought of Psalm 56? Paul was no novice when he wrote Romans 8, but God proved Himself in even more ways by the time he met the believers face to face in Rome.

Wherever you are in life, young, old, or in-between, seek to know God through His Word and to prove His promises through your experience of trusting Him. There is no way to learn how powerful and present God is other than daily faith and obedience.

Contagious Confidence

Today’s reading: Psalm 53-55; Acts 27:26-44

22 Cast your burden on the Lord,
and he will sustain you;
he will never permit
the righteous to be moved.                                                                Psalm 55:22

34 Therefore I urge you to take some food. For it will give you strength, for not a hair is to perish from the head of any of you.” 35 And when he had said these things, he took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat. 36 Then they all were encouraged and ate some food themselves.                    Acts 27:34-36

Confidence in the Lord in times of trial is contagious.

The Psalmist describes the pain of betrayal. His close friend has turned against him. The person whom he trusted and ate with is out to get him. The burden of this is enormous. It’s as if the person you counted on to help you carry a load, quit carrying it, and jumped on your back and added to your load. David says to cast that burden on the Lord. The result is confidence in God’s sustaining power. Nothing can occur without His permission and He will not permit the righteous to be moved.

Jesus, too, knew betrayal by His close friend and disciple, Judas Iscariot (Matthew 26:45-56). This psalm probably sustained the Lord who was the only Righteous One who could legitimately claim the promise that He would never be moved. Who are we to claim this promise, struggling sinners that we are? But by His suffering all who believe in Him are made righteous and, thus, Paul and all the saints down through history can cast their burdens on God expecting to be sustained and kept even in a time of betrayal, shipwreck, or other calamity (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Paul demonstrated his confidence in the Lord to sustain him by both his words and his actions. He reassured the crew and passengers and he ate a meal in front of them. They responded to him and did as he urged them. They gained strength for the impending shipwreck and the swim for shore. All were saved from the sea.

Have you seen how the godly spread confidence to others by their trust in the Lord? Consider how your words and actions today can be used by God to inspire others to trust Him and to cast their burdens on Him.

Sunless Days and Starless Nights

Today’s reading: Psalm 50-52; Acts 27:1-25

14 Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and perform your vows to the Most High,
15 and call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” Psalm 50:14-15

23 For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, 24 and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ 25 So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told.                Acts 27:23-25

God is the rightful owner of all people and all things, so we belong to Him and He deserves our thankful worship no matter how bleak our circumstances.

The Psalmist makes a powerful statement about God. He needs nothing from us. He lacks nothing because all things are already His. We insult Him with our puny offerings given with an attitude of pride or duty. What does God want from us? Try making an offering of thanksgiving. Try using your mind and heart to reflect on all that He is and all that He has done for us. That is pleasing to God not mere outward actions of religious rituals.

Paul in his eventful voyage on a prison ship to Rome becomes the real leader despite his lowly status as a prisoner. His initial advice to winter over at Fair Havens was unheeded but was later proven to have been wise. As the ship is driven by a storm, the angel of God appears to Paul giving him a promise of deliverance. Paul identifies God as the One to whom he belongs and the One whom he worships. In the midst of a storm, which blocked out the sun by day and the stars by night for days and days, Paul was clear on who God is and who he was before Him. “I belong to Him and I worship Him,” Paul says.

Do desperate, life-threatening circumstances draw you closer to God? Do dark days and nights make you more certain of His ownership of you and of His worthiness of all your trust and thanksgiving? That was Paul’s experience. Nothing that happened to him could diminish his convictions about the reality of God’s existence and of His personal care for him.

How can you tell your faith is unshaken in the storm? Check the level of your thanksgiving. Be sure your praise of God is on the rise. God is pleased with a sacrifice of thanksgiving. Nothing is more glorifying to Him than genuine praise and thanks especially on sunless days and starless nights (Acts 27:20).

The Pompous Dead

Today’s reading: Psalm 47-49; Acts 26

20 Man in his pomp yet without understanding is like the beasts that perish.  Psalm 49:20

28 And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?” 29 And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.”     Acts 26:28-29

A man who lacks understanding of who God is and how one is saved from sin is no better than an animal, even though he may rank high in the eyes of the world.

The Psalmist exalts God at every turn and is not impressed with the things that society holds of great value: power, prestige, wealth, and knowledge. One does not need to read far in the Scripture before confronting this reality. One may be far up the ladder before discovering it is leaning against the wrong wall.

King Agrippa makes a perfect example of this truth. Luke’s account shows that he and his wife, Bernice, were held in high esteem. They entered the audience hall with great pomp (Acts 25:23). Paul is presented to them and he begins his defense describing his previous life and his conversion to Jesus Christ. Festus discounts the whole story as one of a mad man, deluded through too much education. Paul appeals to the king for confirmation of what he is saying. Agrippa, at least, does not call Paul crazy and admits that what he is saying is more than a mere defense. Agrippa understands that Paul is attempting to win the king to Christ!

What makes Paul so bold as to use his own trial as an opportunity to preach Christ to a king and queen? Paul was not intimidated by all the royal fanfare. Paul was enthralled with the glories of his Lord Jesus Christ. Whether he was consciously thinking about Psalm 49, it is safe to say that he was mindful that “man in his pomp yet without understanding is like the beasts that perish.”

Are you prepared to grasp even the difficult moments of your life to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ? Remember kings and queens and all other pompous humans without understanding of the gospel and faith in the Savior will perish just like beasts. Be ready to warn them.

God Will Be Glorified

Today’s reading: Psalm 44-46; Acts 25

10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah                                                      Psalm 46:10-11

To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you yourself know very well. 11 If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death. But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar.” 12 Then Festus, when he had conferred with his council, answered, “To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you shall go.”          Acts 25:10b-12

God rules over the whole earth and is with His people no matter what overtakes them. He is exalted over all.

Psalm 46 reminds us that whether there is chaos in the cosmos or bloodbaths on the battlefields, God still rules over all things. The believer is told not to fear but to be quiet and focus on the Lord who is over all the madness of men and the disintegration of the physical world. Nothing can stop Him, nor thwart His will, nor sever His people from Him.

Paul must have had a firm grasp on this truth as he was passed from one jurisdiction to another: from the Jews, to the Roman tribune, from Felix to Festus and from Festus to Agrippa and later to Caesar. Paul had stated his position, “not guilty.” The charges weren’t sticking, but he was still in custody as a favor to the Jews. Paul sought to maintain a clear conscience (Acts 24:16) and clearly states that he would accept any sentence which was just, even death. Festus shows confusion and ambivalence, offering to let Paul be tried in Jerusalem. Paul appeals to Caesar. The charges against him are not clear much less proven. But Paul remains steady, trusting that God is using his testimony to the gospel in this setting before governors and kings for His glory.

Do not be intimidated by the apparent powers of this world’s political systems. God still rules. Do not panic if it seems like the world may blow apart through some natural catastrophe. In the midst of these kinds of crises, God shows His power and sovereignty. Be still. Trust Him. He will be glorified.