Summer Reading, part twenty-six

Here we are at the end of the book of Psalms. We’ve encountered sadness and joy, conflict and victory. I hope you’ve enjoyed the journey as much as I have.

Psalm 145 reminds us to tell of the power of God’s awesome works. This is something we don’t do as often as we could. I tell my children when I lean hard on the arm of God and he shows up with the victory. I have a new story of God’s goodness every time I step out and trust him.

When people look for a verse to memorize, we often pick something like 145:19. “He fulfills the desires of those who fear him” seems a little more selfish than verse thirteen, which is “Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations.” Both verses are true, but verse thirteen keeps our minds on God rather than ourselves. With the right perspective, there isn’t anything wrong with verse nineteen. We just have to stay in touch with what it means to fear God.

Psalm 145:8 is a good reminder to me to be patient with others as God has been patient with me. “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.” If I’m going to continue growing into the person God created me to be, I must remember to act like I belong to him. Be slow to anger. Be compassionate.

I’ve read all 150 psalms this summer and enjoyed learning new things and remembering things I’ve studied before. I hope you have used this time to get closer to God. Once you let God deeper into your life, he transforms what you were into what he knows you can be. We’re one step further along in God’s plan. It makes me want to praise him for all that he has done this summer. Join me in Psalm 150.
Praise the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord.

Summer Reading, part twenty-five

We’ve been reading the book of Psalms together this summer, and it has been enjoyable. Thanks for journeying with me. Today’s selection is Psalms 134-144.

Psalm 137 isn’t a praise-filled song. It’s a pain-filled, tear-jerker of a song. The words vividly take me back to the stories of God’s people being taken into captivity. The psalms often take something that is described one way in one of the other books of the Bible and adds a little different description to it. This psalm could be made into an emotional music video about loss.

Psalm 139:13 is a memorable verse for me because I’m a mother. It’s comforting. “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” This psalm was one of the few I read often during my pregnancies. I love knowing God is actively involved in forming babies. A child is never an “accident”.

Psalm 139:20 is a verse that reminds us to be respectful to God when looking for just the right exclamation phrase (example: Wow, that really hurt!). Some people don’t describe how they’re feeling. They just shout God’s name. “They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name.” People who misuse his name are called God’s adversaries. I’d rather be called God’s friend. People don’t misuse the names of their friends.

Psalm 143 is a good place to turn in your morning prayer time when you’re asking for God’s wisdom. We often have decisions to make that challenge us and force us to ask for God’s instruction. When I want God to give me direction, I can use verses eight through ten along with James 1:5 and James 3:17. God loves it when we show that we’re willing to receive from him.

Psalm 144:14-15 bring up the subject of captivity again. “There will be no breaching of walls, no going into captivity, no cry of distress in our streets. Blessed is the people of whom this is true; blessed is the people whose God is the Lord.” Quite a different mood to it this time.

Join me tomorrow for the final selection of the Psalms. We’ll start September with the usual film review and devotional routine. But for now, read Psalm 145 through Psalm 150.

Summer Reading, part twenty-four

I’ve enjoyed reading the Psalm selections with you this summer. Thanks for joining me.

One of my favorites of the Psalms is 133. It’s about unity. Where there is unity, there is blessing. Unity is important to sports teams, families, and corporate environments.

It’s like oil. Oil is a symbol of power. Pouring anointing oil on someone is a symbol of God’s power on that person. Oil is also a fuel for fire, and fire is one of the symbols of the power of the Holy Spirit. Unity must be present for your group to have power.

Psalm 136 also stands out to me. It’s like a responsive reading. A leader can read one part of it and the congregation can read the repetitive “His Love endures forever.” This is a great way to remember that God has done a lot of things for his people, and everything he does is done from a heart full of love – which, by the way, endures forever.

I think it’s so important to teach children that there are many things on the earth which will pass away (like people, pets, and even homes), but God’s love is forever. Everyone of us will make mistakes, but God’s love is strong enough to endure forever. You can count on him.

We’ve almost finished the book of Psalms. There are only fourteen psalms left to read, so don’t quit. Keep going. Read Psalms 137 through 144 for next time. I can’t wait!

Summer Reading, part twenty-three

Today’s selection, Psalms 120-126, can be described using the word SHORT. These seven psalms each have fewer than ten verses. Quite a contrast from Psalm 119.

Three of these psalms specifically mention a desire for peace for Israel or Jerusalem. One psalm suggests peace by describing the comfort of knowing God watches over Israel. One psalm cries out for mercy. One describes rescue. And Psalm 126 speaks of the joy of restored fortunes. So peace is the common theme in these seven psalms, whether by word or feeling.

I like the comfort given in Psalm 125: 2, “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people both now and forevermore.” It sounds to me like God hugs his children. That kind of protection feels good.

Next time, we’ll take a look at Psalms 127-136. This next selection includes one of my all-time favorites.

Summer Reading, part twenty-two

Did you read all 176 verses of Psalm 119 yet? Let me share some of the highlights.

Psalm 119:1 begins with a blessing for those whose ways are blameless. But who among us is blameless? We’ve all messed up. That’s why I love Psalm 119 so much. It doesn’t dwell on our past sins. It picks us up where we are, and we are at the feet of Jesus, having received forgiveness of all our sins. If we choose to follow in the way of righteousness instead of chasing after sin, we will have faithfulness to God as our goal. In your mind, see yourself as already having achieved your goal. Then read verse one again.

Yes, we all mess up from time to time. Verse five agrees that we still have faithful obedience as our common goal. If you fall down between verses four and five, you can stand back up in verse seven and start over by the grace of God. Verse seven is encouraging and reminds us that we are teachable. “I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws.”  

I need to put verse sixteen on my coffee cup to bolster my determination to get direction from God first thing each day. “I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.” If we start our mornings with a diligence to be open to God, our hearts will look like the eyes of children, wide with wonder and amazement at God’s goodness.

Going to God with child-like trust will affect our prayers. We’ll be more transparent and intimate with him. We’ll hear him better. Verses eighteen through twenty will be the song of our hearts. “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law. I am a stranger on earth; do not hide your commands from me. My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times.”

I love Psalm 119 because of all the “sound bites” and memory verse opportunities. You can take one spiritual goal and find several verses that would serve as encouragement for that goal. For instance, just in this one psalm there are at least eighteen verses about getting guidance and understanding from learning God’s word. Teachability is an important character trait. If you only study eighteen of the 176 verses in this psalm (7, 12, 18, 26, 27, 29, 33, 34, 64, 66, 68, 102, 124, 125, 135, 144, 169, 171), you will still get a lot out of your effort.

Read Psalms 120-126 for next time. Enjoy!

Summer Reading, part twenty-one

Are you feeling as blessed as I am? Today’s selection, Psalms 112 through 118, is full of praise. Psalm 112:1 starts us off with a blessing. “Blessed are those who fear the Lord, who find great delight in his commands.” Verse five helps us check up on our actions toward others. “Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely, who conduct their affairs with justice.” Will good come to you?

Psalm 115 compares the idols worshiped by others to the God who lives and protects his people. The first verse gives God the glory before the comparison even begins. “Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.”

Since I started the first section of our summer reading selections, I’ve never put a whole psalm in one of these blog posts. Until now. Psalm 117 is two verses. Just two. “Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord.” Don’t you love it? I do.

Join me in reading Psalms 119 for next time. That’s right. Only one psalm for next time. Enjoy.

Summer Reading, part twenty

Are you still smiling from the last section of Psalms? I know I am.

Today’s selection is Psalms 105 through 111.
Psalm 105 briefly recounts the stories of Joseph and Moses. Psalm 106 continues with the story of Moses, giving different details. The people God saved out of the hand of Pharoah through many miracles, those people turned their backs on God. They forgot his goodness. But God allowed their descendants to enter the promised land anyway.

Psalm 108 reminds me of all that David went through. I can hear him singing at sunrise, full of victory and expectation. He knew how many times God had saved him, and yet he still needed rescuing. David asks in verse 11, “Is it not you, God, you who have rejected us and no longer go out with our armies?” I can almost hear his tone of voice and see the head-shaking. He believes more in the rescue than the rejection. He knows “human help is worthless” and that God will “trample down our enemies.” It’s not a psalm of wondering if God will help. It’s a song of victory.

Psalm 111:10 is a great place to go when you have a problem you can’t figure out. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.” I need God’s wisdom to help me solve problems. But in order to have the right mind set to be able to use his wisdom, I must first have that “fear of the Lord” which is a deep respect for his presence.

You don’t get all of what you need without getting God’s powerful presence. If you don’t know how to deal with your problems, just focus on following God’s orderliness. An orderly mind is a peaceful mind. Following God’s precepts will prepare the soil of your being for the understanding God will plant in you.

Next time, we’ll cover Psalms 112 through 118. I’m looking forward to it. Aren’t you?

Summer Reading, part nineteen

This section, Psalms 100-104, is jam-packed with memorable verses.

Psalm 100 is five verses of joy. But I found eight reasons to shout.
1. “Come before him with joyful songs.” We get to come before God with singing. We are not judged by our vocal talents, but enjoyed by the one who designed those vocal chords.

2. “Know that the Lord is God.” We know who God is. We don’t wander around with no idea that a “God” even exists.

3. “It is he who made us.” We can grow in our scientific discovery of our own bodies because we can ask questions of the one who made the bodies.

4. “and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” It is so comforting to know I belong to God. Knowing I am his brings limitless joy.

5. “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise.” We get to enter into God’s place. I don’t get to enter The White House any time I want. I can’t get in to see many business owners without an appointment. But I can run to God and enter his courts day or night with praise on my lips.

 6. “For the Lord is good.” If you’ve been forgiven, then you know God is good. You know the difference between trying to live without God and trying to live within the limitations of his joy. Contrasting the chaos of living in our own foolish plans with the order of living in God’s plan gives us the confirmation that there isn’t anyone like God. He is good to us.

7. “his love endures forever.” I don’t know what forever looks like. I only know that time exists because of God. Time exists inside God. God doesn’t exist inside time. I have limitations, so I can’t know what the end of time looks like. And even with my limitations, I know that at the end of time, God’s love will still be strong.

8. “his faithfulness continues through all generations.” I’ve seen children who look a lot like a grandparent or a great-grandparent. I know that some of the genetically-transferred parts of us show up more in some generations than in others. And I know that God’s faithfulness isn’t shown to his people based on genetics. God is faithful, regardless of what we do. God is faithful whether we respond to his faithfulness or not. God is faithful. Period.

Do you feel like shouting now?

If not, keep reading. Psalm 103 lists the benefits of knowing God. He forgives us, heals us, redeems us, crowns us, and satisfies us. And he renews our youth. Not shouting yet? Read Psalm 103: 8-12. In fact, read the whole psalm out loud. So loud your flesh can feel it. “He does not treat us as our sins deserve.”

Make sure you read all of the psalms in today’s selection. You’ll finish with a smile.

Summer Reading, part eighteen

If you’ve been reading along with me, we’ve covered 1,523 verses by the end of Psalm 99. We’re basically two-thirds through with Psalms. Today’s section, Psalms 94-99 is full of beautiful praises to God who has been faithful.

Psalm 94:6-7 describes the wicked who are foolish enough to think they’re getting away with their crimes. “They slay the widow and the foreigner; they murder the fatherless. They say, ‘The Lord does not see; the God of Jacob takes no notice.’” How sad they’ll be when they find out that they’re not getting away with anything. If they’d only read James 1:27, they would find out that God wants us to look after widows and orphans to see that they have what they need. But they won’t read it because they’re fools. They say God doesn’t see, but God formed the eye (verse 9). He can surely see. The wicked are the ones who can’t see. Sad.

Psalm 97:6 reminds me of the description of Jesus appearing in the sky so that the whole earth would know of his second coming. “The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all peoples see his glory.” There will be much rejoicing when he appears. Those caught worshiping idols will be shamed. I can just imagine that his appearance will be bigger than most people think. We think too small when we think of God. He’s bigger and better than our words can describe.

Psalm 99:6 reminds us that God will answer us if we’ll call to him. “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.” They expected a response from a righteous God, and they got one.

I enjoyed reading these 99 psalms with you. Please continue with our selections as we read Psalms 100 – 104 for next time. Happy reading.

Summer Reading, part seventeen

We’re covering four psalms today: Psalms 90-93. Many of these verses refer to a cooperation between God and man. Our part is to stay with God and do what he tells us. His part is to bless, protect, and rescue us. In short, we are to act like his good children, and he will do everything else.

I found several power verses in this section. Psalm 90:17 is very encouraging. “May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands.” When you’re living in the favor of God, you’re in a powerful and peaceful place. It sometimes feels like surfing a big wave while relaxing in a recliner. Exhilarating, yet peaceful.

Psalm 91, the whole psalm, is one of my favorites. Verse one is comforting.  “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” To me, this means that God is going to be there for you. You can’t be in someone’s shadow if they’re not there. And if God is there, he will look after you to protect you and guide you.

Psalm 91:14 is also comforting. But it reminds us we can be bold in front of an enemy the way David approached Goliath.  
“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.”
If we do our part and live like we belong to Almighty God, the enemy will be defeated by him. David was little, but loved God. There’s power in that relationship.

Have you ever wondered where God was from? Psalm 93:2 tells us, “Your throne was established long ago; you are from all eternity.” That verse makes me laugh because I’m from Texas. Everyone says things are big in Texas, but God is from Eternity – and that’s way bigger than Texas.

Join me next time for Psalms 94 through 99 as we finish the powerful nineties.