Psalm 10

Psalm 10 is a cry from the author’s heart when he sees the pride of the wicked that leads them to reject God and mistreat people, especially the poor. This pattern still dominates our world today.

The author has great confidence that God will hear and act. He closes with these wonderful hopeful words:

The LORD is king forever and ever; the nations perish from his land. O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.

Read Psalm 10

Psalm 8

This beautiful hymn celebrating the majesty of our great God also asks a wonderful question: “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” The Scripture plainly speaks to the enormity of the sin of mankind, but it also reminds us that even so, we are still made in God’s image and likeness and carry divine given dignity. How God values us, even in our fallenness!

Read Psalm 8

Genesis 12

In Genesis 11, God thwarted the rebellion of mankind by confusing man’s language and plans. As a result, the tribes and clans of all peoples scattered around the world. But God’s plan wasn’t just to hinder the growth of evil, but to redeem all that man’s sin had corrupted.


How would He do this grand work of reconciliation? His plan was to establish a covenant relationship with a man named Abram (Abraham). Through the family of this chosen man the promised seed of a woman (Genesis 3) would come.


Point to ponder: What promises did God make to Abraham?


Read Genesis 12

Genesis 11

So far in Genesis we have seen how the sin of mankind completely corrupted God’s perfect world. The corruption became so great, the great flood of Noah’s day was sent to bring judgment and purification.


God gave Noah and his family a fresh start in a brand new world, but it did not take long for mankind to once again establish a world set in its rebellion against God. As one, they decided to “make a name” for themselves and built a tower of defiance against their Creator. Their name and glory became more important than the name and glory of God.


Once again, God wisely intervened. He knew that if sinful, rebellious mankind would continue to work together in unity, corruption would exponentially multiply unhindered. God graciously brought division to those gathered at Babel by confusing their language. It was much harder to work together in their rebellion if they could not communicate.


How often we pray for unity among God’s people to work together to spread the truth and love of Jesus around the world! Yet, unity is not always a good thing. Evil men working united with other evil men is horrifying.

Read Genesis 11

Genesis 10

After the story of the flood, it is interesting to see how the family of Noah will be able to complete the task given by God to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

The answer to this is given with the “table of nations” listed in chapter 10. It doesn’t take long to multiply to a large number of clans and peoples. Sometimes readers skim thr0ugh the genealogical sections of the scriptures, but they are actually crucial passages. They not only remind us of the importance of history, they remind us where we came from, which helps us to understand where we are today. The genealogies also help the reader to anxiously anticipate the coming of the promised offspring of a woman from Genesis 3. When would this promised One appear? To whom would He be born? What would He do when He would come to make this broken world right again? This is the main message of the rest of this incredible book we call the Bible.

Read Genesis 10

Psalm 7

In the beginning of the book of Psalms, it is evident that David has faced much conflict. In chapter 7 the opposition is coming from a fellow Israelite. David takes great comfort in the judgment of his God. The idea of judgment can be a scary one, if the idea is that I will be judged. Yet, if the focus is on a God who sees how others are mistreating you, the idea of judgment is a hopeful one. David actually asks God if he has done anything wrong in this situation, which is a very brave question. David is confident in his own innocence, but even more confident in God’s righteous judgment.

Read Psalm 7

Genesis 9

Genesis 9 reveals a new world after the flood, but a different world. No longer will man exercise his dominion over animals in the way that resembled Eden. Instead, animals would have “fear and dread” of man (setting the stage for the “great hunter,” Nimrod, introduced in chapter 10). No longer would man rely on plants alone for food. Now he would be carnivorous. Man is instructed that when animals are eaten, their blood is not to be eaten, in recognition that all life is a precious gift from God.

Now that man is starting to slaughter animals, he is reminded that man is not just an animal, but a creature made in the image of God. As such, respecting the value of a human life, severe punishment was prescribed for murder.

The chapter also includes the first covenant God establishes with man. The sign of the covenant is a rainbow. The next time you see the rainbow, remember that God is a faithful, promise-keeping God. And remember that all of God’s covenants with people are fulfilled in His Son, Jesus.

Read Genesis 9

Genesis 8

The story of the flood of Noah’s day is one that describes the horror of sin and rebellion against God and the just judgment against the rebels that is well deserved. It is a story that takes your breath away. But then the reader is directed to this passage: “But God remembered Noah…” What an incredible, hope-filled passage in a story of so little hope. To “remember” in Hebrew thought is not something done because something else has been forgotten. It is not like God said, “Oh, I almost forgot, there’s Noah in that boat.” To remember is to see someone you have a relationship with and to see all that they are going through and to then act on their behalf. God remembered his people, was well aware of their predicament, and took action to help. He still remembers His people today!


Point to ponder: What does the judgment of the flood narrative teach us about us and about God?

Read Genesis 8

Genesis 7

Genesis chapter 7 is an incredibly sobering chapter. The entire human race, consumed by its evil and rebellion toward God, is destroyed. Only one righteous man and his family, along with representatives of each animal species, is provided a way of escape to reestablish God’s earth. God takes sin seriously, but also provides a way of escape. His name is Jesus!

Read Genesis 7

Genesis 6

The story of Noah and famous his ark is not the familiar floating zoo scene portrayed in church nursery murals complete with smiling animals. It is actually a picture of the enormity of man’s sin which spreads everywhere and corrupts everything and is eclipsed only by God’s sovereign grace. It is summarized in this startling passage:

“The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.” (Genesis 6:5-8 ESV)

Let this scripture sink in. The worldview that presents man being inherently good is nowhere to be seen. How is it like our modern world?

Read Genesis 6

Psalm 6

One thing that we have learned about David from our time in the Psalms is that he often suffered. Quite often even those close to him became his enemies who yearned for his destruction and death. David does not tell us the exact circumstances he faces as he pens this poem. Whatever the cause, his despair is emotional, spiritual, and physical. His suffering makes him fear that God will join in and punish him further.

Yet, he knows that the answer is to appeal to God’s steadfast love. And he does. David the giant killer humbly reveals that he cries himself to sleep like a little baby. Yet, by the end of this poem, after he has had opportunity to pour out his heart, he is fully confident that God has heard the sound of his weeping, heard his pleas, and accepted his prayers. May you have this same assurance tonight.

Read Psalm 6

Psalm 5

In both Psalm 4 and Psalm 5, David declares that he is able to peacefully sleep knowing that he is under God’s care and protection. In Psalm 5, he wakes up, again aware of His need for his Lord.

David has confidence that God will answer his morning prayer because of his confidence in God’s heart of justice and righteousness. He knows God will always do what is right. David has so much opposition from his enemies that he cries out for God to make them pay for their rebellion against God! (Aren’t you glad the Bible deals with our real, sometimes raw emotions?)

David could fall into despair as he dwells on his opponents transgressions, but as he reminds himself of God’s constant care he finds himself once again crying out with these beautiful words, “But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you. For you bless the righteous, O Lord; you cover him with favor as with a shield.”

Read Psalm 5

Psalm 1

As you begin a new year, make sure you start out on a firm foundation.

The first Psalm provides an introduction to a hymnbook which leads us into a life of worship. It begins reminding us that the Law (Torah), which describes God’s covenant relationship with His people, is crucial for a life of true worship and flourishing. It sets before us two paths which are really two ways we can live. Which will we follow? God’s path, or the path of the wicked? You will hear voices today trying to get you to follow one path or the other.

Note that God’s path is one of delight and blessing. May I encourage you to follow that path, found in His Word, in 2021.

Read Psalm 1

Psalm 2

Psalm 1 contrasts the two ways we can live our lives. We can either submit to God or rebel against Him. In Psalm 2, we see how all men, even the leaders of this world, choose the way of rebellion and stand against God’s rightful authority. While these earthly kings boast in their apparent power, God views the whole scene from His heavenly throne, laughing at man’s true powerlessness.

King David and his royal descendants were to model to those rebellious leaders and to the whole world what a life of submission to God looked like, although they, too, became full of themselves and failed in this task. One of David’s descendants though, would claim the throne and set up God’s proper rule and reign among the rebellious kingdoms of men. The choice then is given, serve the true King in holy fear and rejoice in His kingship, or continue in stubborn rebellion and experience the King’s wrath. The psalmist wisely admonishes all readers to choose the way of the true King, saying, “Blessed are those who take refuge in Him.” May we heed that advice today.

Read Psalm 2

Psalm 3

Psalm three is the first with a title. It is one of the many Davidic Psalm. The title also reminds us that David lived a very hard life. At one point, even the son he loved tried to kill him.

But David’s family trouble is not the only opposition he faced. In verse one he cries out that “Many are rising against me.” This multitude of opponents mocked him by saying, “There is no salvation for him in God.”

How alone David must have felt. How helpless. No wonder he cried out to God in desperation. Yet, in the midst of this overwhelming circumstance, David is able to lay down and sleep. How can he do this? For many of us, any little bit of despair keeps us up all night.

David was able to rest in the midst of conflict because he remembered how God delivered and protected him in the past. And what God did before, He can do again! What did David have to fear with God at his side. No wonder he doesn’t listen to the mocking voices of his enemies, but instead again cries out to God for salvation.

Are you facing obstacles that seem insurmountable? Do you feel like there is no way out of your problems? Remember, “Salvation belongs to the Lord.” Cry out to Him today.

Read Psalm 3

Genesis 1

Genesis 1 gives an opening statement that is the foundation of the beginning of our world. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Before anything, God was. In the first chapter, God creates everything, including the crown of His creation, mankind. It is a world where God takes unorganized chaos and through works of division and filling creates a place for mankind, made in His image, to rule as His representatives over His world. There was no sin, no suffering, no sickness, or no sadness. There was just God’s shalom, His peace that resulted in perfect harmony. No wonder God described it as “very good.”

Point to ponder: How does this picture of the world God created prepare us for the future world God has planned for us?

Read Genesis 1

Genesis 2

Genesis 1 showed us the power of Almighty God as He created our wonderful world. The first few verses of Chapter 2 end that section by reporting that when God’s work of creation was done, He took a “sabbath,” not because He was tired, but because His work was complete. Chapter 2 then begins a complementary creation narrative, this time focusing on a more personal account of God creating mankind.

Throughout chapter 1, the name for “God” used by the narrator was the more general name for the Creator. In chapter 2, we are introduced to another name – “LORD God.” “LORD” translates the Hebrew, “Yahweh,” the personal name God gave when describing Himself to His covenant people. While chapter 1 gives us a magnificent account of the creation of generic mankind, chapter 2 focuses more on a personal creation of the first man and woman by a personal God.

What a beautiful picture is presented of a loving God carefully shaping the first man from the ground. This unique sculpture came to life as Yahweh breathed life into him. Man began his new life in the exquisite garden of Eden. He was blessed with the noble task of working the garden as God’s caretaker. Among the trees in the Edenic paradise were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which both play significant roles throughout the rest of the biblical story. The one prohibition given to the man was to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

The garden was filled not only with plants, but also animals, which Adam named, displaying his authority over other created beings. Yet, the only thing “not good” in the garden was the fact that the man was alone. God put the man to sleep and performed the first surgery, taking a rib from his patient and using it to start the creation of Adam’s ‘helper,” the first woman. How wonderful that this beautiful chapter ends with the first marriage in all of history between this first man and the woman taken from his side. At the end of chapter 2, everything was perfect!

Read Genesis 2

Genesis 3

Genesis 1-2 presented us with a loving Creator birthing all that we now enjoy in this universe we call home. We see God’s power and might as he fashioned a world that He said was “very good.” Mankind was blessed with being His representative in this new world. God further blessed man by giving him the gift of a marriage partner, so together they could be all that God created them to be.

Chapter 3 shows us that even in paradise, man was tempted to make a choice to live independent of the God who blessed Him. When Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they were telling God they wanted to decide what was good and evil for themselves, rather than living by God’s rule and reign over them. Man’s rejection of God led to paradise being filled with sin, suffering, and death. This was not the life a loving God wanted for His creation.

Yet, in the midst of God’s word to the fallen about the cursed consequence of mankind’s rejection of God’s authority, He also gives mankind a special promise that a son of Eve would completely conquer the Tempter. There was hope for the fallen because a special Son would come. His name is Jesus!

Read Genesis 3

Genesis 4

In Genesis 4, man’s rejection of God and the curses that follow are fully displayed in the story of one brother murdering another brother because of jealousy. Cain did not heed the warning, “The LORD said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.’” Genesis 4:6–7.

The list at the end of the chapter shows that Cain’s descendants intensify and multiply the rebellion, anger, and hatred that entered our world when sin corrupted all that God had made. How tragic to see man’s broken relationship with God that resulted in such broken relationships with each other.

There is hope, though. We are told that another brother, Seth, is born in place of the murdered Abel. It is then when we read these beautiful words, “At that time people began to call upon the name of the LORD.” May we call upon His name today!

Read Genesis 4

Psalm 4

Psalm 4 was written by David during a turbulent and troubling time in his life. David is aware of the opposition that godly (literally “those under God’s steadfast love”) people face, but displays incredible trust and confidence in his Lord in the midst of such difficulty. As he did in Psalm 3, he ends this song with a proclamation that he will sleep in peace because he trusts in God. How many of us can say that as we lay our head on the pillow tonight?

One statement stands out to me as I read this today: “Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah. Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the LORD.”

Are you angry by what you see in our world today? In your anger, do not respond sinfully. But how? To start, why not take some time to ponder your situation? Why do you feel as you do? In your pondering, why not pray to the Lord as to how you should respond? Before you go to social media to vent or before you call the person who hurt you to blast them, think about what will happen if you react in such a way. Don’t think that the world won’t be put right if you don’t immediately share all you are currently feeling. Selah – pause, reflect. Be silent. Trust God. He can handle this much better than you.

Read Psalm 4

Presents or Presence?

The fickle children of Israel quickly traded in the true and living God who delivered them from slavery for a golden calf formed from their own hands.  Before we are too critical, let us remember the multitude of times that we substitute gods of our own making for the God who truly delivers.  We all seem to prefer gods we can control over the God before whom we must bow.

Moses and God had the type of relationship where “the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Ex. 33:11).  May we all have this type of relationship with Him!  God confided in His friend, expressing His deserved anger: “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people.  Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you” (Ex. 32:9-10).

Rather than enjoying God’s new, Moses-centered plan, Moses spoke to his Friend, reminding Him of the covenant promises that He made to the nation He called to be His own, and asked Him what the Egyptians would think of a God who delivered His people from slavery to let them perish in the desert.  “And the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.”

The relationship between God and His rebellious people was still fractured.  The LORD said to Moses, “Depart; go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give it.’  I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.  Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people” (Ex. 33:1-3).

God was promising the people the benefits of their deliverance from slavery with one stipulation – God, the Deliverer, would not be with them.  He was offering the Hebrew people His presents, but not His presence.  God would be true to His promises and give the Jewish people what He promised them, but because of their rebellious hearts, a righteous, holy God could not dwell with them.

I think many people today would love this deal.  Get the blessings of God without having to be accountable to God?  Enjoy the stuff without having to listen to His commands?  Many would jump at the chance.

But Moses understood that this life having the stuff of God without the presence of God is really no life at all, because God does not just give us life, He IS our life.  Here is Moses’ response:  “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I, and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” (Exodus 33:15-16).

Moses knew that what makes the people of God the people of God is not the blessing God gives to His people, it is having God, Himself.  Do we understand this?

For Me?

Say to all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth month and in the seventh, for these seventy years, was it for me that you fasted? And when you eat and when you drink, do you not eat for yourselves and drink for yourselves? (Zechariah 7:5-6 ESV)

Every time I read this Scripture I am reminded to ask the Holy Spirit to show me what my motives are as I work, worship, and just plain live.  Why do I do what I do?  This question is especially applicable to my religious life, as it was to the Jewish people addressed here.  Why do I sing songs of praise, to honor God, or to make myself feel a certain way?  Why do I do “up front” ministry, to get everyone gathered to focus on Jesus, or to see me?  I can do these things – good things – with selfish motives.  When I do, I rob God of His glory.

In the original Hebrew, the “for me” is repeated.  “Was it for me that you fasted – for me?”  What a haunting echo.  Why do I do what I do?  One question helps when asking this question.  What would I do if no one said anything to me about my up-front ministry?  About my singing?  (Actually, I really hope no one ever listens to me sing.)  About my religious activity?  If I was never noticed, never thanked, never complimented, would I still do what I do?  People who are doing things for themselves rather than Jesus tend to give up if their actions don’t gain the personal attention they seek.

I am not saying that we should not thank others for what they are doing.  Thank them!  Encourage them!  It is sinful if you don’t.  What I am not saying is that it is your job to keep others humble by your silence about what they do.  What I am saying is, “What is your response when people are silent to you?”

Envy

Rob Reimer, in his wonderful book, Soul Care, writes, “Envy starts with the question, ‘What about me?’ and ends with the accusation, ‘God isn’t fair.'”

Do you struggle with this self-centered question that then leads to the ultimate false accusation?  Note how envy is completely selfish.  It is all about what you think you deserve and how unfair God is to you because you feel He should give you more (or at least “different”).  You look at how God is blessing others and you think you deserve better than they are receiving.

Of course, the key to being set free from envy is to understand God’s amazing grace.  Grace is God’s “unmerited favor.”  It is when He doesn’t give you what you deserve (separation from Himself because of your sin), but instead lavishes upon you blessings you would never deserve (life forever with Him).  This is the Christian gospel – the God of this universe who should punish all of us because of our rebellion and sin, instead becomes a man like us to live the perfect life we could never live and die the death we deserved to die.  “For our sake, he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV

When we truly understand what we deserve, and what God offers instead (based on what Jesus has done for us), envy disappears.  We no longer demand justice from God.  Instead, we thank Him that He doesn’t give us what we deserve.

The Scriptures tell us a lot about envy:

A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.  Proverbs 14:30 ESV.  How many of you have experienced this?

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant…  1 Corinthians 13:4 ESV.  Note how this passage about God’s self-giving love implies that envy is anything but self-giving.

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  Galatians 5:19-23 ESV.  Again, the life of selfish men is contrasted with the life of God, which is completely self-giving.  Which category is “envy” in?

Here are a few tips to help you deal with envy:

  1. Be thankful! Always be thankful to God.  Express your thanksgiving aloud.  Thank Him for all He does for you.
  2. Be thankful – for the things you see in other’s lives that make you envious. Thank God, again aloud, for how He is blessing them.
  3. Pray for more of God’s blessings to be given to those you are envious of. If we are to pray for enemies, and bless those who persecute us, certainly we can bless those we are envious of.  In our own selfishness we struggle with this, but as we are filled by the Spirit, His fruit and His life will enable us to be and do what we could never be and do on our own.

Figs

On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it. 

As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.”   Mark 11:12‭-‬14‭, ‬20‭-‬22 ESV

Earlier, we explored the story of Jesus cleansing the temple during the “passion week.”  An interesting story story takes place before and after that account.  It takes place on the mountain ridge road overseeing the Kidron Valley, which Jesus  walked many times that last week as He entered Jerusalem during the day but stayed on mountain at night.  In addition to the Mount of Olives, this ridge was also home to two villages.  Bethany was the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.  Bethphage was very close to Bethany.  Interestingly, both of these villages mean “house of figs.”  Bethany refers to figs that are ready to eat.  Bethphage refers to figs that are not yet ripe.

As Jesus was walking from Bethany into Jerusalem on the Monday after “Palm Sunday,” He became hungry and noticed a fig tree.  He saw that it had leaves, but found no fruit.  Even though Mark explains, “it was not the season for figs,” Jesus curses the tree by saying, “May no one ever eat from you again.”  

On the next day, Jesus and His disciples again passed by that tree.  The disciples noticed that the tree was “withered away to its roots.”  Did Jesus unfairly judge the tree?  Did  He in anger kill the tree because He was hungry?

This story makes sense when we understand that fig trees in this part of the world begin to have early, somewhat smaller figs that would grow from the previous year’s sprouts each spring.  These early figs and leaves would fall off, giving way to another set of leaves and figs, which would come in abundance (usually after August) and would then be harvested.  The smaller figs were not much good for harvest, but were sometimes used to give the poor some sustenance as they traveled.  This tree had its spring leaves suggesting it had these early figs, but was fruitless.  Jesus cursed the tree for its hypocrisy.  It looked like it was fruitful, but was not. 

The fig tree in the Scriptures was often a symbol for Israel.  During Jesus’ day the Jewish people claimed to be living for God, but in fact were living lives of hypocrisy.  Their lives bore no spiritual fruit, even though they “looked good” on the outside.  Luke tells us that at this same time, Jesus wept over the people of Jerusalem, mourning their lack of spiritual life and prophesying about​ their upcoming destruction. 

I pray that my own life is not all leaves but no fruit!  May we not be hypocrites, but bear fruit for God’s glory.