Summer Reading, part six

Psalm 32:8 says that God will “instruct you and teach you.” This verse is a favorite of mine because if I’m going to be taught, I’d rather be taught by an expert. God is an expert on everything, so God is my favorite teacher. He’s always right.

When I read Psalm 27 through 33, I discovered that each one either had a reference to waters or a rock. They mention praising God for being saved. When I put them all together, the picture these verses drew in my mind was of someone caught in a flash flood and saved by taking refuge on a high rock. 

I think the verses I’ve studied for today’s blog post mean different things to people because we all need to see different things in scripture. We don’t all have the same issues and experiences. This group of psalms reminds us that we are safe with God. We can put our hope in him and trust him. God’s word is powerful no matter what kind of trials we’re going through.

I know I will be safe with God. Psalm 27:5 says that God “set me high upon a rock.” Psalm 28:1 says, “you are my Rock.” Psalm 31:2 says that God is “my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.” I’ve been hiking in the mountains where I could see a great distance down below. It felt like I was perched up in a protected area, away from the world, away from harm. When I think about God as the solid rock of our protection who lifts us up in his hands, I’m comforted. I feel secure.

When God lifts me up, I know no harm can come to me. “The voice of the Lord is over the waters,” according to Psalm 29:3, and verse 10 says he is “enthroned over the flood.” Psalm 30:1 praises God because the Lord “lifted me out of the depths.” And Psalm 32:6 says “surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them.”  Psalm 33:7 says that God “gathers the waters of the sea into jars; he puts the deep into storehouses.” God is in control.

According to Psalm 33:5, “The Lord loves righteousness and justice.” So why would he save sinners like us?

We’re reminded in Psalm 33:15 that God considers the hearts of the men he created. God looks at what’s in a man’s heart, not what’s on his letterhead. In Psalm 33:16, we’re reminded that we’re not saved by the size of our own army. God doesn’t look at our Facebook friends list. God doesn’t judge us by the number of Twittter followers we have. God doesn’t check our Amazon ranking. He checks our hearts.

Both Psalm 27 and Psalm 33 tell us to wait. Psalm 27:14 tells us to “be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Psalm 33:20 reminds us that we are to “wait in hope for the Lord.”  I know we get impatient with God when we feel like he isn’t working his miracles in our lives on our schedule. If we’ll settle down and let God be God, we’ll see him lifting us up at the right time. Our job is to trust him. Psalm 33:21 says “because we trust in God, we can rejoice.”

Summer Reading, part five

Today’s Psalm selection is Psalm 23 through 26. Almost everyone has heard Psalm 23 (The Lord is my Shepherd) at least in movies and TV if not in church. It may be the most quoted Bible verse in the entertainment industry. If there was a worldwide vote, it might be the most popular Bible verse in the world. Who knows?

Looking at Psalm 24, we find that we’re wrong when we call ourselves homeowners or owners of anything. We don’t even own the clothes we buy to put on our own bodies. And we don’t own our bodies. Verse one sets us straight, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it”.

When we realize that we belong to God, it’s easier to submit to him. He designed us with specific personalities and created settings for us to live in. He has a plan and has a place for us in his plan. Submitting to God and submitting to our role in his plan should be easy once we give up trying to make the world conform to our little-minded plans. He sees the real “big picture.”

Psalm 24:7 suggests to me that seeking God begins with opening up the garage door of your heart. “Be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.” That might be a good verse to remember every time you touch your garage door remote control.

Psalm 25: 4-5 help us form prayers. God can and will teach us how to live in his wisdom. Step one is to be willing to do things his way. Step two is to ask God to teach us how to do it. Verses 8-9 encourage us to watch and see how God instructs us. I think we get so tempted to ask God to do things on our schedule that we forget to be patient and wait for God’s timing.

At first glance, Psalm 26 sounds to me like bragging about self-righteousness. However, if you look at it as a To Do List, you might check off items as you come across them in your daily life. Re-word a few of the phrases, but keep the meaning intact. For instance, verses 4 and 5 can become: I will not try to get into the “cool” group because I’ve seen that they are hypocrites. I will not sit at the mean girls’ table at lunch and gossip with them.

How would you check off verse 7 on your To Do List? It can be done without sounding self-righteous. Wait for the right moment, but don’t hesitate to tell the story of your personal experience with God when a person needs to hear it.

Summer Reading, part four

Psalm 18 is a psalm of deliverance, which was sung with rejoicing by David. Have you ever been afraid, but you knew God was with you? And when you called on him, he swooped down to save you as if he flew on the wings of the wind. In your relief, did you praise God and tell people what he had done? When God steadies you, you feel secure. When God trains you, you’re ready to conquer any enemy. God gives a warrior the confidence to trample the enemy so that they cannot rise up again. When David said “foreigners cower before me”, he knew it was God, not David, who subdued the nations. “Therefore I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing the praises of your name.”  

Psalm 19 is about revelation. The heavens pour forth speech and reveal knowledge. This fact is in the Bible, but few understood it until scientists caught on through use of new technologies. There is much we don’t know, even now in a time when scientists make discoveries every day. But God has given us words in the Bible which are perfect, trustworthy, and firm. The diligent scientists can learn much from God’s words, which are more precious than gold. Even as smart as we are today, we still show our faults. Not all of us are scientists, but God can help us discover things we didn’t know were there. When we are blind to our faults, God is still with us. In our quest to be blameless before God, we can ask God to help us avoid sins which tempt us and forgive us for those we can’t see.

Psalm 22 is a favorite at Easter because we can study the New Testament accounts of the crucifixion of Jesus and notice how the lines in this psalm give more meaning. Verse 16 shows us a picture of the crucifixion with, “they pierce my hands and my feet.” The last line, “He has done it” is similar to the last words of Jesus, “It is finished.”

Now grab your Bible and read Psalms 18 through 22. Don’t forget about 20 and 21. There is a lot to think about when studying the summer reading selections. Take your time and let God bring you unexpected morsels of understanding. His revelations are sweet. Enjoy!

Summer Reading, part three

Today, let’s look at Psalms 13 through 17. I like to read each one and summarize the parts that stand out to me. Which parts stand out to you?

Psalm 13 – Feeling like giving up? So did David when he wrote this one. Even though he was feeling blue, his trust in the Lord never quit. He never lost sight of the fact that God has been good to him.

Psalm 14 – God is checking us out to see if any of us are seeking him. He never leaves us, but it’s up to us to call on the Lord. The Lord is our refuge.

Psalm 15 – Do you need a To Do List? People who do the things listed here will stand firm. The Do and Don’t list is powerful. Do you keep your oaths, even when it hurts? Do you lend money to the poor without interest? The good news is that with God’s help, we can learn to do these things.

Psalm 16 – Like David, we can make a list of reasons to cherish our relationship with God. We can feel safe with God because he makes our lot secure, we have a delightful inheritance, he will not abandon us to the realm of the dead, and he makes known to us the path of life. God fills us with joy in his presence.

Psalm 17 – If you feel like you have a bull’s eye on your back, take heart because you’re not the first to be targeted by evildoers. David understood the need for vindication. The key to standing firm is to stand in the shadow of God’s wings where you can hide from the wicked. Rest in the fact that God will confront them and save you. When you call on God, be true to the path God has set before you. If your arrogant enemies surround you, take refuge in God.

Now grab your Bible and read these Psalms for yourself. Write your own summaries in your journal. Which of these Psalms is your favorite? Why?

Summer Reading, part two

Come on and read through the Psalms with me this summer. We’ll take a little at a time and savor the flavor of the sweet words of God.

This week I’ve read through the first twelve of the Psalms. The last seven remind us that evildoers will not go unpunished. God examines the hearts of the righteous and the wicked. He sees those who plot against him. He hears the cries of the weak. God will come to the rescue.

In Psalm 7:10, I find a comforting verse. “My shield is God Most High, who saves the upright in heart.” This reminds me to let God be God when people give me trouble. I don’t have to hang onto the verbal blows which are aimed at me. I can allow God to take the brunt of the brutality. I can allow him to be my shield. If I end up in any kind of distressing situation, God will be there with me.

Psalm 9:10 repeats the same comforting feeling. “Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.” This verse goes very well with my devotional blog, Seek God With Me. I know that if I seek the Lord with my whole heart, I will find him because he will never forsake me.

The Psalms are great reminders of God’s truth. We read some of the same phrases in several places in the Bible. For instance, Psalm 12:6 states that “the words of the Lord are flawless”. That idea is also found in Psalms 18 and 30. I can trust what God says because he never lies. On the other hand, you can trust the wicked to spew lies often. Their words are flawed, but God’s words are flawless.

Summer Reading, part one

Summer is the perfect time for a personal Bible study. I can take my time and wander through the sweet words as if I’m in Willie Wonka’s chocolate factory.

I love reading the first five Psalms. There is so much good stuff to squeeze out of the verses. When I’m disgusted with myself for my laziness, and I want to give myself a good talking to, I can read Psalm 1. It helps me get back on the right track. “My delight is in the law of the Lord. I meditate on it day and night,” I tell myself. Verse three fills me with the refreshing feeling of drinking cold water. It makes me want to linger and re-read until I’ve finished refueling for the moment.

Psalm 4:8 is where I turn when I can’t sleep.
"I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety."
I also love to re-read Psalm 5:11-12. Those verses gave me confidence when I used to go job hunting. When I worked in a law firm, I felt quite sure God had surrounded me with his favor “as with a shield”. So many things pointed to God’s favor during that time.

What are your favorite verses in these Psalms?

Come back for part two on June 8. I’ll comment on Psalms 6-12 then.

Summer Plans?

A lot of people go to camp or take family vacations during the summer. I think it’s the perfect time to start a personal Bible Study. 

Join me at SGWM for a 3-month study of the book of Psalms. I’ll take it in small batches and give my thoughts. You can share with me in the comments if you like. 

On the schedule for June 6 is part one: Psalms 1-5. And then on June 8, we’ll check out Psalms 6-12. So go ahead and look them over. Pick out your favorite lines. Share what’s meaningful to you.