Category: Psalms


Churches may, indeed, soon face more vicious forms of government sanctioned persecution in this country. This is not something new, nor should it surprise us. (Matt. 5:10-12; John 15:20-23) Let us be sure of one thing, however: the Church of Jesus Christ, over which He is Head (Eph. 1:18-23), will never cease to exist on the earth. (1 Cor. 15:22-28) The people of God do not have to have buildings and public meetings to carry on the work of the gospel, which is the one unique and glorious thing about this message– it does not deal only with external behavior, but is the power of God to penetrate to the very soul and no opposition, seen or unseen, will ever succeed in stopping it. (Rom. 1:16; Heb. 4:12, 13) You can forbid people to meet and you can destroy our buildings and you can threaten us all you want, but the gospel will continue to be applied to the human race according to the sovereign decree of God and then it will be over–and not a millisecond before God has done whatsoever He pleases with this world. (2 Pet. 3:3-10) Rave on God-haters. He who sits in the heavens is laughing at you. (Psa. 2:1-4) You are only storing up wrath for that great Day. (Rom. 2:5-8)

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Psalm 19:1 The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.  2 Day to day pours forth speech, And night to night reveals knowledge.  3 There is no speech, nor are there words; Their voice is not heard.

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Some Thoughts on Thankfulness

Psalm 77

Introduction

One of the most difficult challenges we face is that of developing a genuinely thankful attitude. Because we are sinners, the concept of acknowledging a source outside ourselves, a source that is responsible for the things in life that we consider good and desirable, a source that gives but does not require repayment, can be most uncomfortable. To be thankful, we must first admit that we are the recipients of so much that we did not pursue and so much that we could not achieve on our own under any circumstances. The concept of giving thanks also requires us to admit our limitations, especially in light of the fact that we are spiritually crippled by sin.

I believe that developing a thankful attitude, one that endures throughout the year and one that seriously influences the way we think about ourselves and our nation and our relationship with God is of fundamental importance. Living without thankfulness in our hearts produces a false sense of security and a false apprehension of what we are able to do as human beings.

We are, by nature, selfish, self-centered people and we have to train ourselves to be grateful, not only to other human beings, but especially to our Creator. I also want to point out the Bible has a tremendous amount to say about this topic of thankfulness. Based upon this fact and the prominent place given to thankfulness in our development as Christ’s disciples, I believe it is safe to assume that God is pleased when His people behave contrary to their fallen natures and actually raise their eyes to heaven and praise Him for all that He has bestowed upon us.

You probably encounter very few genuinely thankful people when you leave your home during the week. Often, either directly or through the media, you encounter selfish people, people who want everything they have and more, people who think they deserve a better life than what they are experiencing. This is not really a surprising attitude when you remember that we are sinners; and one thing that sin does is make us complainers.

In Psa. 77, the writer provides us with steps which, if followed consistently, will gradually produce and sustain an atmosphere of thanksgiving in our hearts and homes. The historical setting for this Psalm is uncertain. Circumstances were such that the writer was emotionally overwhelmed. It could have been that the nation was experiencing a particularly difficult time or perhaps this Psalm only reflects a personal experience of the writer. Whatever the case, we can learn something about the state of the writer’s mind from the tone of this Psalm.

Psalm 77:1 My voice rises to God, and I will cry aloud; my voice rises to God, and He will hear me. 2 In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; in the night my hand was stretched out without weariness; my soul refused to be comforted. 3 When I remember God, then I am disturbed; when I sigh, then my spirit grows faint. 4 You have held my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak. 5 I have considered the days of old, the years of long ago. 6 I will remember my song in the night; I will meditate with my heart, and my spirit ponders: 7 Will the Lord reject forever? And will He never be favorable again? 8 Has His lovingkindness ceased forever? Has His promise come to an end forever? 9 Has God forgotten to be gracious, or has He in anger withdrawn His compassion? 10 Then I said, “it is my grief, that the right hand of the Most High has changed.” 11 I shall remember the deeds of the LORD; surely I will remember Your wonders of old. 12 I will meditate on all Your work and muse on Your deeds. 13 Your way, O God, is holy; what god is great like our God? 14 You are the god who works wonders; You have made known Your strength among the peoples. 15 You have by Your power redeemed Your people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph. 16 The waters saw You, O God; the waters saw You, they were in anguish; the deeps also trembled. 17 The clouds poured out water; the skies gave forth a sound; Your arrows flashed here and there. 18 The sound of Your thunder was in the whirlwind; the lightnings lit up the world; the earth trembled and shook. 19 Your way was in the sea and Your paths in the mighty waters, and Your footprints may not be known. 20 You led Your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

We can conclude that the writer passed through a time of desperation and doubt. He speaks of seeking the LORD throughout the night (v. 2). His soul was so troubled that he could not sleep and didn’t know what to say (v. 4). The writer thought much about the past—perhaps remembering better times or times when the LORD came to his aid (vv. 6-8). Whatever happened led this writer to wonder if God had forsaken him forever. Would he ever again experience God’s favor? Had God withdrawn His grace? (v. 9) In his intense grief, this man thought that perhaps “the right hand of the Most High has changed.” (v. 10)

For us to gain the most from this Psalm, we need to understand the state of the writer, which is indicated in the verses I just cited. I want to take time, therefore, to define three of the words that are used in these opening verses. This will give us insight regarding the anguish being experienced by this writer as he turns to the LORD for help.

In the second verse, Asaph, the author of this Psalm and one of the leading figures in the establishment and use of Psalmody in the worship of God, speaks of “the day of [his] trouble.” He uses a Hebrew word (tsarah) that refers to severe anguish and affliction. This is not a case of a writer having a “bad day.” This man was experiencing deep distress and his whole life was unsettled as a result.

In the third verse, Asaph states that thoughts of God “disturbed” him. Here he uses a word (hamah) that refers to a loud roar, a frightening clamor, or a threatening growl. At this point in his Psalm, Asaph could not even think about God without great unrest in his soul because his situation made it appear that God had gone away.

And finally, in verse four, we have another word that is also translated “troubled,” but it is not the same one used earlier. This time, the writer states that he was so troubled, that he was unable to speak. The Hebrew term in this case (paam) means “to be persistently beaten.” The picture is that of a man overwhelmed by an adversary who is being crushed under the attack.

With all that in mind, we can now ask an important question: How does one recover from such spiritual and emotional depression? This writer reveals a method of dealing with his circumstances that brought stability. He was able to replace his doubt and depression with thanksgiving. The formula contained in this Psalm can serve all of God’s people. We need not be in the condition experienced by this writer before we make use of his wisdom.

What, then, did this writer do that can be imitated by us? What steps did he take that can be repeated by us? The answers are given in vv. 11-15. Just after the writer tells us how distraught he was, he also tells us what he did to relieve his fear and regain his confidence so that he could respond to his situation as a thankful man instead of a fearful man.

  1. Thankfulness comes when we remember the deeds of God (v. 11)

The writer reached the point where he thought God had deserted him. From this pit of despair come these words: “I shall remember the deeds of the LORD; surely I will remember Thy wonders of old.” (v. 11) This writer could find no comfort in his present circumstances. He had considered various explanations, including the idea that the LORD had forsaken him. But, before he is lost in total despair, he does something that turns his situation around. He begins to think about what God had done for him and his people. He reflected on the past to gain comfort and confidence in the present. Therefore, instead of continuing to dwell on his present misery, he found solace in the past works of God.

This is where the turn-around begins. God’s deeds are spectacular; they are incredible. They reveal a God who rules, loves, and provides, not a God who terrorizes, hates, and withholds. To think that this God would actually care for us while we live out our few years on this earth is also an amazing notion. This is what the writer of this Psalm does. He thinks on these and other truths about God. From this point on, the tone of this Psalm changes dramatically. This passage becomes a hymn of praise and thanksgiving.

The lesson here is obvious. If you wish to maintain the proper attitude toward life and toward God, you must remember the past wondrous deeds of God. You must not forget what He has done for you and your family. You must not forget how He has cared for you and how He has comforted you and how He has given you purpose and understanding. If you wish to create a spirit of thanksgiving, take time to remember the ways in which God has expressed His love for you in the past. Make this a regular practice now and even throughout the year.

  1. Thankfulness comes when we meditate on the deeds of God (v. 12)

An important element is added in this second step. We tend to miss the point when the Old Testament Scriptures talk about something being “remembered.” We think that means to recall something to mind and then be off to the next thought or activity. But in the Hebrew mind, to remember something involved more. And this writer explains this concept clearly when he says that beyond merely remembering God’s past acts, he will contemplate them: “I will meditate on all Your work and muse on Your deeds.”

For the Hebrews, to remember something was to ponder it. The writer means that as he remembered God’s past acts, as he remembered things God had done before, he took the time to linger over them in his mind. This brought satisfaction to his troubled soul.

What is pictured here is a sincere and prolonged reflection. It’s the kind of thing we don’t do very often these days. We are too busy to linger over the promises of God and we are too busy to ponder what God did for us last year or five years ago or twenty years ago. We are not people who mediate on such things for any length of time. And, as a result, we are spiritually poorer than we need be. This man paused long enough to draw lessons from God’s past actions. This is something that takes time and dedication.

As this writer meditated on the past, he recalled that God had always shown Himself to be gracious and compassionate. He had never broken His promise. He had never forsaken His own. Based upon this knowledge, the writer was strengthened. His confidence was renewed. In spite of the trying circumstances he was facing, he was able to compose himself and control how his circumstances affected him rather than being at the mercy of that which he could not control.

  1. Thankfulness comes when we have the proper opinion of God (vv. 13-15)

This third step is actually a product of the first two. When you remember something and then ponder it, you obviously become more familiar with it and gain a more accurate perspective. The same is true with God:

13 “Your way, O God, is holy; what god is great like our God? 14 You are the God who works wonders; You have made known Your strength among the peoples. 15 You have by Your power redeemed Your people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph.

In this Psalm, the writer takes us to the expected result of having meditated on the acts of God in his past. This exercise naturally served to remind the troubled writer of God’s character. God’s character is revealed in His works for His people; this man, who was so distraught at one point, is rescued from that condition by thinking on God’s ways and, thereby, remembering who God really is and what God is really like.

We don’t want to miss this simple truth: God’s past actions reveal truths about His nature. You’ll notice that three chief attributes stand out in these verses. First, God’s past manner showed that His ways are holy (v. 13). The writer’s circumstances are immediately put into perspective when he remembers God’s holiness. God had not been overcome; this man’s plight was not beyond the perfect awareness and control of God. Regardless of how circumstances appeared, therefore, the writer was reminded that all of God’s actions are pure. He cannot be charged with unfairness.

Second, God’s past manner demonstrated that He is a God Who routinely works wonders (v. 14). If anything is going to give you comfort during a trial, it’s the knowledge that God is a God who works wonders. As he thought about past situations, this writer remembered that it is not an unusual thing for God to deliver His people from the most threatening of circumstances. He recalled times when the nation, or perhaps he personally, had been involved in a difficult situation. How did God respond on those occasions?

Third, God’s past ways reminded this writer that God is a God of salvation (v. 15). Imagine that you are surrounded by vicious enemies and imagine that, as far as anyone can tell, this is the end for you. And then you remember that the LORD is the God of salvation. Redemption characterizes all that God does. The restoration of His fallen creation is the aim of God’s activity in the lives of human beings. Even when God’s people suffer, there is redeeming value to it.

This man is fortified with this truth. He learned from the history of the nation and his personal experiences that God brings about trying circumstances in order to refine His people and produce greater glory for Himself in their lives. Whatever the writer was now facing could be viewed in the light of God’s master plan of restoration.

Having a proper opinion of God will always lead to thanksgiving. Those who desire to be characterized by thankfulness must spend time cultivating this proper opinion. In addition to His written word, nothing better educates us about the nature of God than His actions. Remembering them, meditating on them, and drawing lessons about God from them—this is the formula that produces a reverence for God and reverence is inevitably followed by thanksgiving.

Here, then, are three steps that will create an atmosphere of thanksgiving for you and your family. Remember what God has done in past days. Remind yourself of what God has done for you. When you call God’s past acts to mind, take the time to meditate on them. Talk about God’s care with others and help them extract lessons from those experiences.

When this pattern is followed, trials become our instructors and we come away from that testing more confident in God, with a greater understanding of His nature and with a more stable hope regarding the days ahead. And that, as this Psalm teaches us, will nurture a thankful spirit in our hearts throughout the year.

Psalm 148

A Meditation for the Lord’s Day

In the Book of Psalms, there is a category of Psalms known as the “Hallelujah Psalms.” This term comes from the use of the Hebrew word halel in each of these . This word means “praise, glory, most, celebrate, and shine.” In its various grammatical constructions, this word is rendered “to be praised, to be made praiseworthy, to be commended.”

The most well-known of these Hallelujah Psalms is the collection that ends the book of Psalms, that is, 146 through 150. Each of these five Psalms begins and ends with “Praise the LORD.” Writers have referred to this collection of Psalms as the “Hallalujah Chorus” to this book of praises, that is, the whole book of Psalms.

Let’s consider Psa. 148:

1 Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; Praise Him in the heights! 2 Praise Him, all His angels; Praise Him, all His hosts! 3 Praise Him, sun and moon; Praise Him, all stars of light! 4 Praise Him, highest heavens, And the waters that are above the heavens! 5 Let them praise the name of the LORD, For He commanded and they were created. 6 He has also established them forever and ever; He has made a decree which will not pass away. 7 Praise the LORD from the earth, Sea monsters and all deeps; 8 Fire and hail, snow and clouds; Stormy wind, fulfilling His word; 9 Mountains and all hills; Fruit trees and all cedars; 10 Beasts and all cattle; Creeping things and winged fowl; 11 Kings of the earth and all peoples; Princes and all judges of the earth; 12 Both young men and virgins; Old men and children. 13 Let them praise the name of the LORD, For His name alone is exalted; His glory is above earth and heaven. 14 And He has lifted up a horn for His people, Praise for all His godly ones; Even for the sons of Israel, a people near to Him. Praise the LORD!

The writer calls for praise for the LORD from the heavens and the heights, from His angels, from the sun and moon, and all stars of light. He commanded, and they were created. Further, God has established them forever by a decree that will not pass away. God’s making and sustaining of creation are to be the basis of praise from the very things made and sustained.

In verses 7-10, the writer provides another list of sources from which God should be praised. Praise should come from the earth, sea monsters, from fire and hail, snow and clouds, wind, mountains and hills, fruit trees and all cedars, from all beasts, creeping things and winged foul. Once again, all of creation is exhorted to praise its Creator in light of His power to make them and maintain them.

The writer concludes this Psalm of praise with reference to man. In verse 11, he calls upon the kings of the earth and all people to praise the LORD. Princes and all judges are included. With these references, the writer indicates that even those with great authority among men are obligated to recognize a greater authority, which is the LORD.

Mentioned next are young men and virgins, old men and children. At no stage of life, does the obligation to praise God cease. From the beginning of life to its end, we are to praise the LORD for His greatness. Children are to be instructed in the praise of God, both by word and deed. They learn about this universal beauty through the teaching and example of adults.

Young man and virgins, who have entered the most active part of life where the tendency is to think primarily of self and plans for the future, are reminded that before all else they have a responsibility to praise the LORD. All listed are exhorted to praise the name of the LORD because His name alone is exalted and, as has been stated previously, His glory is above earth and heaven. And He is to be praised, as well, for His rescue of His people.

As noted, this Psalm ends with that wonderful declaration “Praise the LORD.” Let us, therefore, enter His presence with gladness and humble thanksgiving so that we might join the ranks of those who have gathered to Praise the LORD.

 

All Saints Weekly Devotional

Volume 2 Number 6

May 9, 2013

No True Atheists

From Pastor Bordwine

 

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes,

His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen,

being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

(Romans 1:20)

According to the Bible, true atheism is impossible. You may question the accuracy of this statement because you have probably encountered someone who claimed to be an atheist. Generally speaking, such a person means that they do not believe in God and, moreover, do not believe that there is a God. But there is one teaching in Scripture that contradicts such an assertion. It has to do with the fact that we are created beings.

Theologians refer to this doctrine as “an awareness of divinity.” They mean that we all have a natural knowledge of God’s existence because God has planted such perception in our souls and has made His existence apparent in creation. (cf. Psalm 19:1 “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.”) As created beings, our minds “automatically” recognize that we have a Creator. Because this awareness is part of what we are—beings created in God’s image—it cannot be erased. It is an inner testimony that never ceases to speak. (cf. Romans 1:18, 19 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.”)

Due to sin, however, this awareness is corrupted and suppressed by the sinner and this results in manifold attempts to find and worship that which we perceive to be greater than ourselves. Therefore, every culture, even the most primitive, develops a religious expression by which the people seek to acknowledge One greater than themselves. Every tribe has given a prominent place to the idea of a superior being (or beings). These ideas are always inaccurate because, as just noted, sin distorts everything in our existence, including our thinking. The fault is not to be found in God, but in us—specifically in us as fallen creatures.

In Romans 1:20, quoted at the beginning of this devotional, Paul concludes that mankind “is without excuse” when it comes to knowing, acknowledging, and serving God. Obviously, he could not make such a dramatic statement if, in fact, it were possible for a man to escape this natural internal witness to the existence of his Creator. In the context of this verse, as just noted, Paul explains that man suppresses this natural awareness of God because it runs counter to his corrupted concept of himself and the world around him. He cannot eliminate this testimony from God, but sin keeps him from accurately interpreting it.

There is no such thing, therefore, as true atheism. For true atheism to exist, a man would have to rid himself of that which is part of his makeup. This is something that cannot be done. Fallen man may fight against this knowledge and, as already explained, give perverted expression to it by worshiping rocks and trees and various other creations of his own sinful mind, but he cannot eradicate that which God has implanted within us. (cf. Romans 1:23 “. . . and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.” Psalm 115:4-7 “Their idols are silver and gold, the work of man’s hands. They have mouths, but they cannot speak; they have eyes, but they cannot see; they have ears, but they cannot hear; they have noses, but they cannot smell; they have hands, but they cannot feel; they have feet, but they cannot walk; they cannot make a sound with their throat.”)

At this point, you may be wondering why I would choose such a topic for a devotional. The purpose of these devotionals is to provide encouragement as we go about our normal routines during the week. And there is a practical implication of this doctrine that provides much-needed encouragement and hope when it comes to our interaction with other people.

A believer and unbeliever have only one thing in common and that is a fact that they both come from the hand of God. As His special creatures, therefore, they both have this testimony of God’s existence, power, and wisdom within. When the believer speaks to the unbeliever about the gospel, for example, he is speaking truth that resonates with the natural awareness of God that resides in the heart of that unbeliever. This is their point of contact.

Assuming that I have this point of contact with unbelievers, I may be encouraged that my testimony is never given in vain, but will be used by the Holy Spirit as He sees fit. This fact also gives me hope because I know that the Biblical witness I provide will ring true with that knowledge of the Creator implanted in that person’s soul.

Those many conversations that you have with various people—members of your family, friends, and even strangers on occasion—are not wasted efforts regardless of how that individual responds. Scripture declares:

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10, 11)

As you consider this devotional, I trust that you will find encouragement in your efforts to speak to others about your faith, especially if you have grown weary because you have yet to see evidence of the Spirit’s activity. As long as you are speaking Biblically and prayerfully, you may be confident that the promise made in the verses above will certainly apply to your attempts to convey the truth of God to those who are yet trapped in darkness.

All Saints Weekly Devotional

Volume 2 Number 5

May 2, 2013

A Better Way?

From Pastor Bordwine

 

Oh that my ways may be established to keep Your statutes!

(Psalm 119:5)

Do you agree that the concept of personal obedience is irrelevant within the context of living the Christian life? Many believers have been taught that references to obedience on the part of Christians somehow contradicts the gospel. As a matter fact, there is currently a vigorous debate going on within the evangelical Church regarding this question. One particular school of thought is that any talk of obeying God once a person becomes a Christian is somehow contrary to the message of salvation by grace through faith alone.

There are two major flaws in this thinking. First, it cannot be reconciled with the multitude of passages in which the writers of Scripture command some behavior while condemning other behavior. This implies, of course, that choices have to be made in the Christian life. And those choices, by necessity, must be made according to some standard. If we say that seeking to conform our lives to the commands of Scripture through simple obedience is not an option for the believer, then what do we have left? Some source of authority will inform our conduct. If the Bible is eliminated as a possible source, then we have only the leading of our own hearts. Keep in mind, however, this statement from the prophet Jeremiah: “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9)

Salvation does not bring with it an immediate perfection of our sense of discernment. The Word of God teaches the very opposite when it tells us that sin remains as a powerful influence in our flesh this side of heaven even after we are born-again. Apart from the Bible, therefore, there is no other source on which the Christian may rely for moral guidance if our desire is to reflect the character of God.

I said that the thinking described above has two major flaws. The second flaw is the complete mischaracterization of the idea of obedience in the Christian life. We do not seek to know and obey the Scriptures in order to impress God or established merit in His eyes. Our desire to know and obey the Scriptures comes from our sense of thankfulness to God for what He has done for us in Christ. For the Christian, attempting to bring our lives into line with the commands of Scripture is an act of humility because we have come to understand that we are not capable of righteous living apart from instruction concerning what constitutes such an existence.

I quoted from Psalm 119 above. This Psalm contains the conclusions of David as he meditated on the law of God. Throughout this Psalm, we find numerous references such as the one above: “Oh that my ways may be established to keep Your statutes!” David repeatedly expresses his desire to develop the highest regard for the commands of God. It was his prayer that his life be a reflection of the will of God as revealed to us in the Bible.

Clearly, David understood that walking before the Lord requires direction, correction, and encouragement and that is what we find in those passages where God tells us how to live. Again, these commands are not given so we might achieve or maintain our place before God, but are given so that we might know what pleases Him. Our love for God and for the Savior prompts us to seek that which David sought, which is a life characterized by holiness.

It is greatly troubling to know, as I mentioned above, that there are those who completely reject the notion of a believer showing concern for the Word of God as a source for moral guidance in our lives. This is in spite of the fact that Jesus Himself declared: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (John 14:15) Our desire to express our love for God in our conduct is the work of the Spirit and is a natural response from those who have been delivered from condemnation and given eternal life.

Be on guard, therefore, as you avail yourself of all the sources of Christian teaching that are accessible these days. Take time to read Psalm 119 and pay attention to the many ways in which David described his dedication to the commands of God. By adopting David’s attitude toward the Word, you will find joy and, far from contradicting the gospel, your thankful obedience will confirm its reality and power.

All Saints Weekly Devotional

Volume 2 Number 4

April 26, 2013

Joyful Noise

From Pastor Bordwine

 

O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. (Psalm 95:1)

Personally, I find that one of the most enjoyable and edifying elements of worship is the singing of hymns in praise of God. Early in my Christian life, I heard pastors and choir leaders emphasize the importance of paying attention to the words of our hymns. Eventually, I started following that advice and my perspective on hymnody in the worship of God was permanently changed.

Previously, like many believers, I imagine, I considered the sermon to be the most important part of public worship. While I continue to hold the sermon in extremely high regard, I also consider the singing of hymns to be a marvelous form of instructing the people of God and providing us with words of Biblical truth that amount to a common confession of belief concerning God and His works. Hymns provide the entire body an opportunity to declare the teaching of Scripture in reverent unison.

In the book of Psalms, there are several dozen verses that speak of singing praise to God as a proper and expected response to what God has revealed about Himself. As the verse quoted above indicates, the singing of praise to God is often found in the context of the joy and thankfulness the people of God experience when they contemplate His nature and works.

Hymnody was introduced into the worship of God by King David who was acting upon the explicit instructions of God Himself. God specified how the singing was to be done and even what attitude should be brought to this task. We know, therefore, that the corporate singing of the congregation is an activity that pleases God. With that in mind, we should engage in this activity to the best of our ability. We should sing with enthusiasm and with due consideration of the words we are proclaiming before God. While the level of competence may vary within the congregation, no Christian should be content to remain silent as the hymns are sung.

This Sunday, as you participate in worship, make it a point to meditate on the words of the hymns being sung. Take note of how God’s majesty, grace, kindness, love, patience, and faithfulness are extolled in those selections. And, to the best of your ability, make a joyful noise before our magnificent God.

All Saints Weekly Devotional

Volume 1 Number 34

September 27, 2012

God’s Lovingkindness

From Pastor Bordwine

 

Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,

and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

(Psalm 23:6)

My goal in producing these weekly devotionals is to provide us with an uplifting thought or two after we are well into our week and have, once again, faced the adversities associated with living for God’s glory in a world thoroughly corrupted by sin. Typically, I concentrate on some aspect of our faith that will encourage us and remind us of the marvelous work God has done for us in His Son. This week, I want us to meditate on God’s lovingkindness.

This term “lovingkindness” (Hebrew: checed) has a particular significance in Old Testament revelation. In passage after passage, this word is applied solely to the redeemed. It is an expression that embraces all that we have received by the grace of God with a special emphasis on His mercy.

Because we face a multitude of obstacles as we seek to honor God, it is easy for us to forget one of the most essential factors of our salvation, which is God’s lovingkindness. We need to keep in mind that our struggle in this fallen environment is not for our survival. We are not responsible for maintaining our standing before God, nor are we charged with earning God’s blessings. We have been chosen and secured by God in Christ and that status can never change.

Regardless of how well or how poorly we conduct ourselves on any given day, we are never in danger of being cast off by God. There is no possibility that He might grow tired of our stumbling and half-hearted efforts at holiness. If we were responsible for maintaining our status before God and if we were required to earn God’s favor by our behavior and if we were in danger of being dismissed by God for straying from the path of righteousness, then the idea of lovingkindness would not exist.

Lovingkindness represents the opposite of self-reliance and personal responsibility for our redemption. Lovingkindness implies another source for our deliverance. Those who experience lovingkindness are those who are acted upon from without—that is, by God through Christ.

Consider Psalm 23, from which I quote above: “Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” This verse verifies the point I’m making. It is God’s lovingkindness that is responsible for our salvation and, as David says in this verse, for our perseverance through this life and into the next. The lovingkindness of God guarantees eternal life because, once shown, it cannot be withdrawn. Therefore, the state in which the lovingkindness of God puts us continues forever.

We did not call ourselves from darkness into light; we do not sustain ourselves in this condition. It is all of God and all through His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. When the pressure of this world’s opposition bears down upon you or when you feel overpowered by your struggles to live according to the will of God, remember the “lovingkindness” of God. Refresh your heart with the knowledge of God’s all-encompassing grace. Take courage in the fact that God’s lovingkindness guarantees that you will persevere through all challenges so that your journey will end in His holy presence.

 

All Saints Weekly Devotional

Volume 1 Number 29

August 22, 2012

The LORD Laughs at Them

 

He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them.

(Psalm 2:4)

When did human beings start mocking the concept of God and ridiculing His followers? This question is easy to answer: “From the beginning of history.” Man’s perception of God and all things associated with God was thoroughly corrupted when our first parents disobeyed Him in the Garden. Although we have been made by God and live in a universe that He created and now governs, due to our fallen natures, we do not recognize Him and we find the very idea of a Supreme Being to whom we are accountable irrational unless we are enlightened by God.

The serpent mocked God as he tempted Eve to disobey. And by their actions, Adam and Eve mocked God by casting aside His command and proceeding according to their own wisdom and desire. As Noah built the ark, he called his generation to repentance before God and for that, he was scorned and considered a fool as he warned about what was to come.

This kind of behavior continued throughout history and is certainly present in our own day. We hear of those who want to rid our culture of all references to God, all respectful signs of belief in Him, and all evidence of how belief in God has influenced this country’s development. In recent years, the activities of those who have identified themselves as atheists have expanded and become more entangled with our day-to-day experience. They have taken steps to organize themselves and present a professional front. Banding together, many atheists have begun using our court system to further the agenda I just described.

After the twin towers in New York City were reduced to rubble, workers discovered an unusual formation of metal. Two steel beams had been compressed together in the form of a cross. Officials are planning to locate this cross in the same vicinity as a way of honoring those who perished and comforting their loved ones. An atheist group, however, is vigorously opposing this memorial. They say that it will discriminate against those who reject the idea of the Christian God.

This is the kind of situation that often causes believers to become anxious and frustrated. It seems to them that our world is getting more and more hostile to God even while immorality spreads at an alarming rate. On such occasions, we should keep two things in mind. First, as noted above, enmity toward God and the things of God is nothing new. Although such opposition has existed throughout the history of the world, it has not succeeded in eliminating God’s work for and through His people.

Second, God has revealed a pointed reaction to those who would mock Him and seek to rid the world of His influence. His response is quoted above: “He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them.” It is absurd to think that the creature would represent a serious threat to the Creator. In this verse, God mocks those who want to cast off His authority. I do not mean to be irreverent, but they are little more than an amusement to God.

God has always controlled our existence and He always will. His power is unlimited and His will cannot be impeded. In the end, it is those who deny God who are the fools, not those who confess Him and seek to live for His honor. Therefore, whatever victories they appear to gain are hollow and ultimately meaningless.

If you find yourself unsettled by the kinds of things I have described or, in fact, by any attempt to silence the Church or remove believers from the debate, then you should memorize Psalm 2:4. If the atheists were a genuine threat to God and His plans, then we should be seriously alarmed. But, as noted, God laughs at the grand assertions of His enemies. Remember, too, that this God, who is by nature unstoppable, is just as involved in your life as He is overseeing His unfolding plan of redemption.

God is intimately aware of you and all of your struggles, all of your worries, and all of your hopes. Contrary to what God thinks of His enemies, He loves us and guards us while we are on our journey to heaven. Just as there is no power to oppose God successfully, so there is no real threat against us because we are His children. If the united powers of darkness must fail in their war against God, then so must they fail in their attempts to harm God’s people. Therefore, the atheists can rave and accuse and demand all they want, but they will never be the cause of distress for those who know God.

All Saints Weekly Devotional

Volume 1 Number 21

June 28, 2012

Clothed with Gladness

From Pastor Bordwine

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;

You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness . . .

(Psalm 30:11)

As you read through the book of Psalms, you will notice several recurring themes. One of the most prevalent is “gladness.” This term (or similar words), for example, is often found in the context of meditation on the character of God. Various passages describe the reaction of a man when he dwells upon the attributes and works of God. That reaction is joy. In addition, an expression of humble thankfulness frequently accompanies the delight experienced by the worshiper.

A second context in which the element of gladness regularly appears is that of personal trials. These passages are tremendously encouraging because they illustrate how fear is turned to confidence and despair is turned to hope. This happens as the individual contemplates his place before God and the implications of that status for his present distress.

The verse above, Psalm 30:11, is a good example. The psalmist confesses that he was in mourning due to his circumstances, but God had so ministered to him that the atmosphere of despair was replaced with an atmosphere of festive celebration. The explanation for this change in perception is provided in the second half of the verse. The writer figuratively describes himself as wearing the garments of lamentation. But God, he testifies, “loosed my sackcloth . . .” The LORD provided the strength to escape the despair that had overwhelmed this man. The grip of fear and sorrow that held him was broken by God. In the place of despair, he adds, God “girded me with gladness.”

The word translated “girded” (azar) means “to bind, to clothe, to equip.” The writer tells us that God replaced his garments of sorrow with garments of gladness. Another way to express this thought is to say that the writer was armed with gladness, so to speak, and now could successfully confront his difficulties. The text makes it clear that the turnaround in perspectives was accomplished by God alone. He was able to touch the heart of the man in anguish and alter its disposition.

This is a uniquely Christian experience. Our heavenly Father, who has saved us and given us eternal life in Jesus Christ, is able and willing to provide the most essential kind of help when we find ourselves overwhelmed by troubling circumstances. We may remain in such a situation, but our perspective is dramatically transformed. Instead of trying to endure under the heavy weight of grief or fear, we are equipped to persevere with true gladness knowing that God has regard for us and will not forsake us during our time of challenge.

The next time you find yourself becoming unsettled due to an undesirable change in your circumstances, call upon God and ask Him to clothe you with gladness. Ask Him to arm you, as it were, with a joyful disposition even as you encounter the demanding elements of your ordeal.