My PrayerMate

Great is the Lord , and highly to be praised, And His greatness is [so vast and profound as to be] unsearchable [incomprehensible to man].
Psalms 145:3 AMP

I really enjoy the PrayerMate app. It helps me bring some order to my prayers while not just being repetitive. I can build out separate lists and tell it how many items to automatically give me from each list when I start a prayer. That way, many of your names come up.

For my lists, I start out praising God for who He is, with separate items praising:

Who He is as Father
Who He is as Son
Who He is as Holy Spirit
What He has done

Then I submit myself:

Confess who I am in Christ
Confess my sin
Pray to be granted Repentance
Surrender My Will to His Will

Then I pray your names and relationships:

My Closest Inner Circle
Extended Family
Church Family
Marketplace Relationships
Specific Unbelievers

At times, people ask for, or I feel led to specific intercessory prayer for others. I have a separate list of those names in that grouping.

Then I have groupings for:

My Walk with God
My Specific Needs
Missions/Outreach
Sharing My Testimony
A list of Biblical Prayers

I can set this app to remind me during the day to take a moment to pray. And by maintaining these lists, I can either have it automatically hand me a number of items to fit how much time I have right then for prayer — or I can drill down into a particular group and list.

Admittedly, I could be much more consistent and intentional with my prayer than I am at times. But this app really helps me with this, and when I’ve fallen out of practice, or when I’ve just been “phoning in my prayers” — I can look at the names and the needs listed and see the real hurt, challenge, and need and be prompted to truly contemplate the need, then pray for and try to help — rather than just grow cold.

I’m not sharing this to say “look how good I’m doing”. Nope, this is just an app that is helping me do what I should love you deeply enough to gladly remember to do on your behalf, to remember your needs, to remember our relationships and value them, and to remember that I can take it all to my Awesome God on your behalf.

I’m showing you my weakness. My crutch. That I need help, but that this is helping me — with organization, with access, with reminders, and with accountability.

I’m hoping that maybe someone else might find my crutch helpful, and maybe we could hobble along and encourage and pray for each other?

And most importantly, and as praising Him is first in my PrayerMate order, He is worthy of our praise. So whether it is with an app or not, let’s not miss out on our opportunity today to spend time with Him, to praise Him, and to walk with Him.

God bless.

If you want to be on my list, please just ask. I won’t even proudly say you’re already there. I’ll just be grateful that we have a relationship where we might be able to pray for each other and share something more than surface level things that are posted to Facebook. I want to love you, and prayer ands remembering the names of you and your family specifically ands regularly helps me. Thank you.

Seeking

Glory in His holy name; Let the hearts of those who seek and require the Lord [as their most essential need] rejoice.
Psalms 105:3 AMP

This morning as my wife read our morning devotional aloud, and Mia and I listened — my waking mind wandered and struggled to maintain focus. As she finished and it was time for me to pray, I realized that I wasn’t sure that I had really comprehended everything that was spoken. But lyrics from a song immediately came to mind that seemed to fit so well with the parts that I had heard — and I prayed about how God is worthy always. I prayed about when our circumstances are challenging, or when we need to let go of things like fear, anxiety, anger, unforgiveness, bitterness, temptations, or sin that poisons our spirit ands hinders our worship– and that anyone can easily see how those things cause hurt in the world — that time worshipping changes that. When we desire to be with the Lord and spend time with Him, He changes us in that intimate time together.

My mom shared with me yesterday how she starts each day with prayer and how some mornings it comes easy and is quick, and some mornings it is more challenging or long, but that it is always good. I shared with her that I’ve had the same experience and that I sometimes mistake “needing more time with Him” with being “my fault” or “something I’ve done” as the reason for the difference. While that can be the case, that my own self can hinder the process of prayer and worship — who is greater, and who is the solution when I need healing? JESUS!

Speaking with mom on the topic, I was reminded of a video that my pastor Mark Pangel shared of a prophet speaking “there is no wasted time, there is no wasted effort” and given instruction “clean the house” and “the lost coin will be found”. And we talked about how our limited perspective just doesn’t see things right.

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10221320729860998&id=1030524632

It’s like people who foolishly say “Israel wouldn’t have had to walk through the wilderness for 40 years if they had just obeyed God” and stop there. While the facts of their statement might check out when measured by the law — and their exegesis may check all the boxes — they might have missed the whole point of God’s sovereign will and His purpose to walk close and intimate with them, and that He purposed, designed, planned and allowed that time for a specific reason.

Knowledge is easy for smart people, and rules and laws, and cause and effect makes sense to them — but wisdom is something greater than just accumulated knowledge — and wisdom begins with the fear of God.

I encourage you to watch and consider this wonderful video “He confounds the wise”:

Sometimes God has to break me out of the pattern of “just” reading comprehension, of “just” good hermeneutics, of “just” application, of “just” knowledge, of “just” understanding — to intimate time soaking in His presence.

Whether we need a quick shower to get on our way, or whether He has a long soak in the tub in store for us — whether our prayer and worship to start the morning ends up peacefully finished in our allotted timeslot — or whether it lasts through our morning commute and we must sit in our parked car for an extended time before entering our day’s responsibilities — our time is not wasted, our effort is not wasted. He is working in us to desire and to do His good pleasure, to bring His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, to turn graves into gardens, to turn mourning into dancing, to trade ashes for beauty. Amen.

“Graves into Gardens” is a song performed by American contemporary worship band Elevation Worship and American contemporary Christian singer-songwriter Brandon Lake which was released as the second single from their eighth live album of the same name, Graves into Gardens (2020), on August 7, 2020. The song was written by Brandon Lake, Chris Brown, Steven Furtick and Tiffany Hammer.

We sing this song because we have known the power of taking time to seek the Lord, desiring to know Him better. We’ve experienced coming freely into His presence and letting our hearts rejoice in Him regardless of the circumstances around us at the time because HE IS WORTHY OF PRAISE. when we ate standing upon the Holy Ground of genuine praise and worship, and we breathe in the rarefied air of His holiness, refusing our cars and concerns to rest in awe and wonder of the His glory, His presence envelops us like a big, spiritual hug, permeating us through and through — and He turns graves into gardens, turns mourning into dancing, gives beauty for ashes.

Thank you, Jesus!

Lord, Please Help Us?

God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge! A river brings joy to the city of our God, the sacred home of the Most High. God dwells in that city; it cannot be destroyed. From the very break of day, God will protect it.
Psalms 46:1‭-‬5 NLT

I read or heard one time that one of the most effective prayers is the simple surrender of, “Lord, please help me?

When we are in that genuine place of giving up on trying to fix it on our own and surrendering to receive His help, it isn’t demanding our own way or stating a complaint. It is acknowledging that He is the help that we need.

As my family started back our morning family devotionals today, the imagery of the second sentence “many people stumble out of bed in the morning and head straight for…” was perfect for reminding me that what we consume into our minds, especially for that all important first meal to start the day, will feed us. And what better meal to start our day than time with the one who is peace, is help, is a refuge.

There are many things that we could do first — and I’ll be completely honest and transparent here — while also trying to not be gross. When I first wake up, even before consuming my breakfast for my body, and even before my mind consumes the Word for that day — I have to first get rid of whatever was left over from yesterday. I stumble first to the bathroom and evacuate my physical body of its waste — just as I should evacuate my mind of its waste from the day before. A simple, surrendered, heartfelt prayer like, “Lord, please help me?” helps posture my mind to receive what is needed for today and let go of anything clinging in my mind from the days before.

Let me explain why this is important. I’m not holding onto shame that we stopped doing morning devotionals for a while. If I went into this from a place of shame for my past shortcomings, I would see it as a religious obligation and a checklist — to either do and be proud “at what I’m doing” each morning — or to miss and be shameful about “not doing enough” — and that misses The Way on either side of the narrow path.

But when I’m truly seeking to “wait in His presence”, when I’m eager for His help, when I stumble to Him as my first — it is amazing how much more fruitful to my day than turning on the TV, phone, tablet or radio first. It’s amazing how much clarity and insight comes instead of the anxiety, frustration, fear or offense that seems to drive so much of the world around us these days.

Lord, please help us in these things? Help us establish a consistency in our faith that isn’t just empty repetition, but is a meaningful washing in your Word and your presence, and that brings salt and light into our lives, so that like a good bloodhound, we know the sweet aroma of your presence and we follow you straight away — not turning to the left or to the right, but walking with you along The Way that you have cleared for us today? Amen.

Prove That You Really Are

So, dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Do these things, and you will never fall away.
2 Peter 1:10 NLT

Life Application Study Bible
Peter wanted to rouse the complacent believers who had listened to the false teachers and believed that because salvation is not based on good deeds, they could live any way they wanted. If you truly belong to the Lord, Peter wrote, your hard work will prove it. If you’re not working to develop the qualities listed in 2 Peter 1:5-7, maybe you don’t belong to him. If you are the Lord’s-and your hard work backs up your claim to be chosen by God (“called and chosen”)-you will never be led astray by the lure of false teaching or glamorous sin.

So we should ask ourselves — if I say that I am a Child of God, is my life developing to demonstrate such an extraordinary claim?

In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.
2 Peter 1:5‭-‬7 NLT

What does this look like?

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.
Galatians 5:22‭-‬25 NLT

This isn’t a demonstration of our “worthiness” or our “earning” anything — because no man or woman is worthy in and of themselves, nor can any man earn his own way — all fall short of the glory of God.

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.
Romans 3:23 NLT

God looks down from heaven on the entire human race; he looks to see if anyone is truly wise, if anyone seeks God. But no, all have turned away; all have become corrupt. No one does good, not a single one!
Psalms 53:2‭-‬3 NLT

The things that Peter describes in 2 Peter 1 that we should “Do these things, and shall never fall away” are:

faith…

moral excellence…

knowledge…

self-control…

patient endurance…

godliness…

brotherly affection…

love for everyone.

You see these are character/nature/ being and not a checklist of actions. So this is a demonstration of either Christ alive in us, God making His tabernacle with His people, in them and through them with those He has called and chosen — or the absence of such a personal and life altering relationship with Almighty God.

“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father. “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. This is my command: Love each other.
John 15:1‭-‬17 NLT

The fruit comes from God and is the trustworthy and true evidence of His indwelling His children. It isn’t how religious someone is, or how much they know “about” God — do you truly know and love God? Does He truly know you and live in and through you?

“Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions. “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’
Matthew 7:15‭-‬23 NLT

If you look at your life today, and you can see your need to be changed, your need to be reborn, to be washed from your sin and changed on the inside to sell after and grow and live in the ways of God, for His glory instead of for your own, I have Good News for you, friend.

If you have never truly repented and believed,

If you have always opposed God or just given Him lip service or Sunday service,

Never truly surrendered your whole life because you believe His way is the only way, the only truth, the only life,

Read this Good News:

Later on, after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee, where he preached God’s Good News. “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!
Mark 1:14‭-‬15 NLT

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants. ”
John 3:16‭-‬21 NLT

And this is not a decision to be taken lightly, frivilously, or half heartedly, but with full commitment and surrender:

Dear friends, if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins. There is only the terrible expectation of God’s judgment and the raging fire that will consume his enemies. For anyone who refused to obey the law of Moses was put to death without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Just think how much worse the punishment will be for those who have trampled on the Son of God, and have treated the blood of the covenant, which made us holy, as if it were common and unholy, and have insulted and disdained the Holy Spirit who brings God’s mercy to us. For we know the one who said, “I will take revenge. I will pay them back.” He also said, “The Lord will judge his own people.” It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Think back on those early days when you first learned about Christ. Remember how you remained faithful even though it meant terrible suffering. Sometimes you were exposed to public ridicule and were beaten, and sometimes you helped others who were suffering the same things. You suffered along with those who were thrown into jail, and when all you owned was taken from you, you accepted it with joy. You knew there were better things waiting for you that will last forever. So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised. “For in just a little while, the Coming One will come and not delay. And my righteous ones will live by faith. But I will take no pleasure in anyone who turns away.” But we are not like those who turn away from God to their own destruction. We are the faithful ones, whose souls will be saved.
Hebrews 10:26‭-‬39 NLT

Count the cost and be fully decided today in your heart who it is that you serve.

A large crowd was following Jesus. He turned around and said to them, “If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple. “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’ “Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down with his counselors to discuss whether his army of 10,000 could defeat the 20,000 soldiers marching against him? And if he can’t, he will send a delegation to discuss terms of peace while the enemy is still far away. So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own. “Salt is good for seasoning. But if it loses its flavor, how do you make it salty again? Flavorless salt is good neither for the soil nor for the manure pile. It is thrown away. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!”
Luke 14:25‭-‬35 NLT

We are called to repentance and belief, dear brothers and sisters. Hear the call:

So Jesus told them this story: “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away! “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.
Luke 15:3‭-‬10 NLT

And you, prodigal sons and daughters, who have been in the slop with the odds instead of in your Father’s house and you need to be drawn back in, read this:

To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons. The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons. “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything. “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’ “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. ’ “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.
Luke 15:11‭-‬24 NLT


Lord, grant us today the gift of repentance. Call us ot of sin and into the faithful lives that you have set before us. Come, live in and through us, as we surrender our lives to your way, your will, your purpose, your plan, and your glory. Hallelujah, Amen!

[Small Group] Psalm 65 – WHY?

This morning, we continue our study on Psalm 65. We have already laid out the WHO? (the people/groups/types) in this Psalm which will serve as the actors/cast in our minds as we practice bringing this passage to life. We have also already examined the WHEN/WHERE? (Environment/background/setting) which will serve as the stage and props. And we have even diverted the HOW/WHAT? (steps/storyline/order of events) that will serve as our script.

As we look at the WHY? today, there are three different perspectives that will all come into play. The first is about the WHY? within its original context — what the original participants would have been learning, sharing, etc.

WHY? ORIGINAL CONTEXT

In Psalm 65, we see David Praising God and acknowledging his own sin. And we have to realize that this was not some personal journal note written and tucked away while he pretended to be perfect. No, he wrote this Psalm to be shared publicly, with the purpose of sending it to be sung publicly. And when he talked about forgiveness of sins, David was talking about the method that God had given them for a very public and visible day of atonement and process of each family bringing a physical sacrifice to the altar.

for the life of the body is in its blood. I have given you the blood on the altar to purify you, making you right with the Lord . It is the blood, given in exchange for a life, that makes purification possible.
Leviticus 17:11 NLT

This would have been David’s original meaning for this Psalm, to celebrate the Day of Atonement that was given to Israel as part of their ceremonies and traditions. You can read about the Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16 and here: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.gotquestions.org/amp/Day-Atonement-Yom-Kippur.html

WHY? IN LIGHT OF CHRIST

Being on this side of the cross, we are privy to the gospel and the epistles to help us understand how this applies to or points to Christ.

Paul discusses atonement in the book of Hebrews:

In fact, according to the law of Moses, nearly everything was purified with blood. For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.
Hebrews 9:22 NLT

Peter in his first epistle:

He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed.

1 Peter 2:24 NLT

And John, in the book of Revelation:

And they sang a new song with these words: “You are worthy to take the scroll and break its seals and open it. For you were slaughtered, and your blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.
Revelation 5:9 NLT

And it is pretty important that we sing miss this point of identifying how these scriptures point to Christ, if we indeed believe His warning to the pharisees:

“You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!
John 5:39 NLT

Paul echoes the importance of a Chrisst centered understanding and application of scripture in His epistle as well:

I know what enthusiasm they have for God, but it is misdirected zeal. For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself. Refusing to accept God’s way, they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law. For Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given. As a result, all who believe in him are made right with God.
Romans 10:2‭-‬4 NLT

The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.
Romans 8:3‭-‬4 NLT

WHY? APPLICABLE TO US

When I think of David writing and sharing publicly his awe in Almighty God’s willingness to forgive us it reminds me of one of my verses for today:

Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.
Galatians 6:2 NLT

And another that makes it clear how we best do this:

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.
James 5:16 NLT

So my application for today is to:

1) recognize the sin — how I have fallen short

2) confess my sin to my brothers in Christ — who will encourage me and hold me accountable and pray for me

3) remember the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross — let hope spring up

4) remember the promises of God — grow in faith

5) pray for, encourage, and serve my brothers — grow in love

6) in all things, glorify God

This isn’t a checklist that I’m going to accomplish under my own power — No! This is what I’m going to witness Christ doing in me, and through me — by the power of the Holy Spirit, by the name of Jesus Christ, and by the promises of His Word — I know this is true. May it be true for you as well. Because He is the one that has laid the foundations and established our footsteps. Amen.

[Small Group] Psalm 65 – How?

As we continue our study of Psalm 65, we continue to the question of HOW?

We gained a mental picture of our actors in the first question WHO? Then we gained a mental picture of the stage and environment in the question WHEN/WHERE?

Now we will ask the question HOW?

Our goal is to now summarize and picture what happened and the sequence of events. A good way to tackle this is to consider — If you were writing out a script and recreating this as a child would in a play or game, what is the general order of events?

Matthew Henry’s commentary ( https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/mhc/Psa/Psa_065.cfm ) says about the order of events in this Psalm:

In this psalm we are directed to give to God the glory of his power and goodness, which appear,

I. In the kingdom of grace (v. 1), hearing prayer (v. 2), pardoning sin (v. 3), satisfying the souls of the people (v. 4), protecting and supporting them (v. 5).

II. In the kingdom of Providence, fixing the mountains (v. 6), calming the sea (v. 7), preserving the regular succession of day and night (v. 8), and making the earth fruitful (v. 9-13).

And we can find other commentaries online like Scott Shauf ( https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=954 ) who says similarly:

When one surveys Psalm 65 as a whole, what is most striking is the breadth of the psalm’s subject matter.

It begins with praise to God in Zion (verse 1), a setting which continues through verse 4. Even here the topics of praise are varied, including prayer being answered (verse 2), sins being forgiven (verse 3), and the blessedness of dwelling with God (verse 4). Verse 5 turns briefly to God’s mighty acts of deliverance but then quickly moves to “the ends of the earth” and “the farthest seas.” This global setting stays in view through verse 8, asserting God’s might with references to the mountains (verse 6), the seas and the “tumult of peoples” (verse 7), and the farthest points east and west (verse 8).

Verses 9-13 maintain the focus on the earth, but the emphasis moves from God’s might to God’s bounty in the harvest, which is described in lavishly descriptive language.

So if we could summarize in our own simple words, we might say something like —

SCRIPT:

1) All praise is rightfully due to you, oh God, you are worthy to be praised and lifted high, oh Lord!

2) You hear and answer our prayers. All men must come to the One from whom all blessings flow.

3) Even though in our weakness, we have fallen victim to all kinds of sin and region against you, even though not even one of us is righteous before you in and of ourselves — in your grace and mercy you have forgiven us, you have purged us, you have atoned for us, and cast our sins away from your sight.

4) It is you who have chosen us and brought us into your presence where we could not have survived, but that we now live. In fact, we are now the very temple of your holy presence — and we are the body, the physical vessels of your will being done here on earth as it is in heaven.

5) You are the source of our salvation, and it is an awesome work that you have done in our hearts and minds and desires –as you have not only given us a firm hope, but you deliver us into righteousness and holiness that was as far from our grasp as the ends of the earth or the farthest star in the sky.

6 & 7) Your mighty power is seen not only in creation of, but also in your sovereignty over, even the mountains and the seas and even over all of mankind.

8) Those who stand back and consider the things that the Lord God Almighty has done are overcome in awe at the evidence of your presence, even if they only were to consider the rising or setting of the sun.

9-13) And the visitation of your presence, the inhabitation of your creation by the Holy Spirit of its very own creator — it births an outpouring of life — and the earth and all in it are blessed — and everything with breath in creation will sing your praises.

Obviously, my “script” that came from me identifying the HOW? is not a word by word translation, but it is something that I can understand and grasp — and when combined in my mind with the actors and stage we’ve already discussed in the previous two lessons, it can begin to take a firm shape within my mind’s eye — within what my imagination can grasp hold of more easily. And in turn, it should be something that is more easily relatable to me personally, and is something that I can more easily share with another.

Yours won’t be exactly like mine either, so there’s no copying off of someone else’s paper for this type of study. In fact, there should be enough differences in each of our scripts that we can each likely pick up on things that another person noticed as important that maybe we missed, etc. This is what makes this process so valuable and revealing in a group of people with different perspectives and gifts and seasons of life. That’s why I’m so excited to see what we all have as a group once we gather together to discuss next Wednesday night!

I believe that is enough for tonight, but I encourage you to practice this on your own. Break it down into parts that make sense to you, then put it in your own words that are still true to the heart of the message but that are also a short/quick/easy summary as if you were relaying the story second-hand to someone without a copy of the written text to reference.

Next, we will tackle the question of WHY?

[Small Group] Psalm 65 – Where/When?

Continued from yesterday: https://hballinger.com/2018/01/12/small-group-psalm-65-who/

Psalm 65 itself doesn’t outright tell us when or where David wrote this Psalm. When I come to a question that I cannot answer by myself, I remember the wise advice about seeking counsel from others that is in the Bible.

You can find a wealth of information on that topic here: https://www.openbible.info/topics/wise_counsel

In this case, we are going to look at “Commentaries”. I have various physical, paper commentaries that I keep in my beside bookshelf and in my study/office, but we are going to stick to the commentaries we can easily reference online for the benefit of us researching this together.

Don’t just read what I’ve written in this post, but follow the links I provide and walk through the process yourself. This will help you learn to do this yourself. And my goal is not to gather a bunch of people listening silently in the pews with an occasional “like” as a virtual “Amen” to my “preaching”, but my goal is for you to be a disciple yourself — a student of the Word of God — a follower of Jesus who will have an active and saving Faith and a living testimony of living, serving, and sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ to all the nations.

A few great places for multiple online Bible commentaries are here:

https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/

http://biblehub.com/commentaries/

https://www.blueletterbible.org/commentaries/

Many of these sites have links to the related commentaries directly from the page when you go to the scripture itself on their sure as well.

I usually end up with Matthew Henry’s commentary first when working online because Google seems to provide his first if you search for something like “Psalm 65 commentary”: https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/mhc/Psa/Psa_065.cfm

But we can see after reading through it, that Mr. Henry gives us no clear opinion on specifically when or where David might have written this Psalm. Since David is primarily talking about the glory of God’s goodness and power and not about something in His own life, there are few clues that point to a point along the timeline of David’s life.

If we ask Google more specifically “When did David write psalm 65”, it leads us to this exposition/ commentary:

https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/treasury-of-david/psalms-65-1.html

And we can find a section with three parts that read:

Whole Psalm. The author of the Psalm is mentioned, but not the date of its composition; but from an examination of its contents, it would seem to have been intended as a song for the “day of atonement,” and for the “feast of tabernacles,” which followed immediately after. Numbers 29:7 Numbers 29:12 . The sins of the year were then “covered over,” and a thorough purification of the sanctuary was made by a special service of expiation. The labours of the year were all by that time concluded, and its fruits secured; and Israel could look on the goodness of God towards them, through its entire extent; and this Psalm was penned to serve as a fitting expression of their feelings. It opens with a reference to the “silence” that reigned in the sanctuary; to the profound, unbroken, solemn stillness that reigned within it; while, in deep abasement, the people without waited in hushed expectation the return of their high priest from the immediate presence of God, Leviticus 16:17 . It goes on to a statement of the blessedness of those who are accepted of God, and admitted to fellowship with One so unspeakably great; and concludes with a description of the various processes by which the Almighty had fitted the earth to yield a year’s supplies for his people. Dalman Hapstone, in “The Ancient Psalms in appropriate Meters… with Notes.” 1867.

Whole Psalm. We have here a psalm of thanksgiving to be sung in the Temple during a public festivity, at which the sacrifices were to be offered which had been vowed during a long and protracted drought ( Psalms 65:1-2 ). To the thanksgiving, however, for a gracious rain, and the hope of an abundant harvest ( Psalms 65:9-14 ), is added gratitude for a signal deliverance during a time of distress and commotion affecting all the nations around ( Psalms 65:7-8 ). Thus the Psalm becomes a song of praise to Jehovah as the God of history and the God of nature, alike. From the “Psalms Chronologically Arranged. By Four Friends.” 1867.

Whole Psalm. This is a charming psalm. Coming after the previous sad ones, it seems like the morning after the darkness of night. There is a dewy freshness about it, and from the ninth verse to the end there is a sweet succession of landscape pictures that remind one of the loveliness of spring; and truly it is a description, in natural figures, of that happy state of men’s minds which will be the result of the “Day spring’s visiting us from on high.” Luke 1:7-8 . O. Prescott Hiller.

The first commentary speaks more primarily to the authorship, the facts, and the likely circumstances surrounding David’s writing this Psalm. The second commentary speaks more to this Psalm’s use in religious ceremonies and how it might have fit into the “Hymnal” of the day. The last focusses on the feel and the mood and the atmosphere of the Psalm itself.

Understanding all three of these components I believe will seriously help us in creating the stage in our minds for today’s question of WHERE/WHEN? today where our actors from yesterday’s question of WHO? so that this Psalm can begin to come alive within our mind’s recreation that we are working so hard in this study to see fully manifested.

That’s probably enough for this post, but dig more into the commentaries if you like. See if you can find even more that we can consider about this stage as we are building in our mind’s eye a complete picture, in order to better understand this Psalm.

Next post, we will continue our work on the questions…

[Small Group] Psalm 65 – WHO?

Psalm 65 (AMP)

God’s Abundant Favor to Earth and Man.

To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. A Song.

To You belongs silence [the submissive wonder of reverence], and [it bursts into] praise in Zion, O God;
And to You the vow shall be performed.O You who hear prayer,
To You all mankind comes.Wickedness and guilt prevail against me;
Yet as for our transgressions,
You forgive them [removing them from Your sight].

Blessed is the one whom You choose and bring near
To dwell in Your courts.
We will be filled with the goodness of Your house,
Your holy temple.

By awesome and wondrous things You answer us in righteousness, O God of our salvation,
You who are the trust and hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest sea;Who creates the mountains by His strength,
Being clothed with power,Who stills the roaring of the seas,
The roaring of their waves,
And the tumult of the peoples,So they who dwell at the ends of the earth stand in awe of Your signs [the evidence of Your presence].
You make the dawn and the sunset shout for joy.
You visit the earth and make it overflow [with water];
You greatly enrich it;
The stream of God is full of water;
You provide their grain, when You have prepared the earth.You water its furrows abundantly,
You smooth its ridges;
You soften it with showers,
You bless its growth.You crown the year with Your bounty,
And Your paths overflow.

The pastures of the wilderness drip [with dew],
And the hills are encircled with joy.

The meadows are clothed with flocks
And the valleys are covered with grain;
They shout for joy and they sing.

So let’s examine the WHO? of this Psalm.

I would say this Psalm has the following that should be considered while reading it:

  • PERSON: David, the author
  • PERSON: God, the creator
  • TYPE: Mankind, made in His likeness
  • TYPE: World, His creation

And as we continue our study of Psalms, David has regularly been a part of our list of people, groups, and types. We see in David’s writing this Psalm, that he clearly and he fully appreciates his position in comparison to God, the other “person”, who we also see in this Psalm:

“Wickedness and guilt prevail against me;
Yet as for our transgressions,
You forgive them [removing them from Your sight].”

This “confession of sorts” from David should establish for us something about how David sees himself in comparison to God.

Let’s look at the word prevail in that first line:

If something prevails over us, it has overcome us, it has proven itself stronger.

So David acknowledges that he is overcome by both “wickedness and guilt in this Amplified translation. We will see similar wording in other English translations as well.

However, the Hebrew here is a single Hebrew word:

Looking at the definition of dabar primarily pointing towards speech and words, this reminds me of something Jesus said that seems to fit in this circumstance:

The good man, from his [inner] good treasure, brings out good things; and the evil man, from his [inner] evil treasure, brings out evil things. But I tell you, on the day of judgment people will have to give an accounting for every careless or useless word they speak. For by your words [reflecting your spiritual condition] you will be justified and acquitted of the guilt of sin; and by your words [rejecting Me] you will be condemned and sentenced.
MATTHEW 12:35‭-‬37 AMP

And it also reminds me of

But now the righteousness of God has been clearly revealed [independently and completely] apart from the Law, though it is [actually] confirmed by the Law and the [words and writings of the] Prophets. This righteousness of God comes through faith in Jesus Christ for all those [Jew or Gentile] who believe [and trust in Him and acknowledge Him as God’s Son]. There is no distinction, since all have sinned and continually fall short of the glory of God, and are being justified [declared free of the guilt of sin, made acceptable to God, and granted eternal life] as a gift by His [precious, undeserved] grace, through the redemption [the payment for our sin] which is [provided] in Christ Jesus, whom God displayed publicly [before the eyes of the world] as a [life-giving] sacrifice of atonement and reconciliation (propitiation) by His blood [to be received] through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness [which demands punishment for sin], because in His forbearance [His deliberate restraint] He passed over the sins previously committed [before Jesus’ crucifixion]. It was to demonstrate His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the One who justifies those who have faith in Jesus [and rely confidently on Him as Savior].
ROMANS 3:21‭-‬26 AMP

Yes, I can see here that David is not claiming his own righteousness(he just confessed that sin had prevailed over him), but he is here acknowledging that God forgives them.

David acknowledges that our transgressions (the Hebrew pesha):

We see they are purged away, covered, atoned for by the Lord:

And this is the Good News since the beginning, seen yet again here to remind us of the covenant relationship between God and His people. We are weak, but He is strong. Even when we have failed Him and not loved Him, He has still loved us and offered us His mercy and grace.

While we were still helpless [powerless to provide for our salvation], at the right time Christ died [as a substitute] for the ungodly. Now it is an extraordinary thing for one to willingly give his life even for an upright man, though perhaps for a good man [one who is noble and selfless and worthy] someone might even dare to die. But God clearly shows and proves His own love for us, by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Therefore, since we have now been justified [declared free of the guilt of sin] by His blood, [how much more certain is it that] we will be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, it is much more certain, having been reconciled, that we will be saved [from the consequences of sin] by His life [that is, we will be saved because Christ lives today].
ROMANS 5:6‭-‬10 AMP

Having addressed the two PERSONS (individuals) of the WHO? question for this Psalm (David and God), now we will talk about the TYPES that we can recognize hee as well.

We could include the world and mankind in the WHERE? question that comes later, and I believe we probably will once we get there, but I believe we should include both in the WHO? question as well, because there are things in this Psalm where there are exchanges between these two types and the Lord. There are interchanges and interactions that can be seen with each, so they play an active and participatory role as “characters in the story” and not just as the passive settings or environment in which this Psalm takes place.

For example, we see:

O You who hear prayer,
To You all mankind comes.

So “the Lord hears prayer”,

Yes this is in fact — “mankind coming in to the Lord”…

mankind“:

Coming in to the Lord“:

There is this interaction between God and His people – not just on a personal level as we saw particularly with David, but as a type, as “mankind” that we see as well.

We see it further played out in the relationship between mankind and God in the following verses:

Blessed is the one whom You choose and bring near
To dwell in Your courts.
We will be filled with the goodness of Your house,
Your holy temple.By awesome and wondrous things You answer us in righteousness, O God of our salvation,
You who are the trust and hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest sea;

Yes, there are ones He chooses:

And He is our salvation and our hope:

We can see this right relationship again established with our dependence upon God and not upon ourselves. We can see that this is available to all who might come:

Opening his mouth, Peter said: “Most certainly I understand now that God is not one to show partiality [to people as though Gentiles were excluded from God’s blessing], but in every nation the person who fears God and does what is right [by seeking Him] is acceptable and welcomed by Him.
ACTS 10:34‭-‬35 AMP

And our last type in our study of the WHO? of this Psalm is the World/Creation. You might have even noticed that we started out with God’s relationship to David, then to Mankind, and now to the whole of Creation — almost as if we were on a rocket ship that had departed from David’s presence and the higher we go up, the more that we see how things that once seemed individual are just parts of a greater whole.

The rest of this Psalm discusses the many ways that God not only has sovereignty and power over every facet of His creation, but that He shows favor in and through His creation:

You visit the earth and make it overflow [with water];
You greatly enrich it;
The stream of God is full of water;
You provide their grain, when You have prepared the earth.You water its furrows abundantly,
You smooth its ridges;
You soften it with showers,
You bless its growth.You crown the year with Your bounty,
And Your paths overflow.

The pastures of the wilderness drip [with dew],
And the hills are encircled with joy.

The meadows are clothed with flocks
And the valleys are covered with grain;
They shout for joy and they sing.

So that covers the WHO? question fairly reasonably for now. So we’ll continue on in our study of this Psalm later this week.

God bless you, and may He continue to reveal Himself more in His Word and in your living testimony, child of God!

Puppy “can’t even”

We woke up this morning and it was my turn to take the dog outside. But I was so tired that I hoped my rustling in the bed had not awaken the sleeping puppy beside me — especially since I expected the temperatures outside were likely in the teens and a stark contrast to the warm bed I currently inhabited.

Then it started…

The puppy started rustling about, wanting to get up and wake me up, but each time she stood up and tried to take a step, she was still so tired that she would just fall over and lay there for a while. It seemed like she didn’t really want to get up and brave the cold this morning either.

I told my wife, “Pompom ‘can’t even’ this morning!”

I’m guessing that the puppy rejoiced a little bit on the inside when I didn’t rush her into action either this morning — we were both taking refuge in the warm bed, both comfortable in the blankets that covered us.

I pray that today we are trusting and taking refuge in the Lord, knowing that He has us covered and protected, and that we aren’t alone in our situation and that we don’t have to face our challenges alone, but that He will walk into them with us. I pray that we won’t be in such a rush to foolishly clamor out the door by ourselves into whatever lies ahead, leaving Him behind because He cannot participate in our sinfulness — and I pray that we will not be so lazy, depressed, anxious, and doubting that we might foolishly stay in the same place when He is calling us at the right time to go with Him into pour purose and calling for the day. I pray we will not fall to either side, but will contentedly and boldly “move when you move, say what you say, pray what you pray”. And have us rejoicing the whole way, Lord, because your way is best. And even though without you, “I can’t even” — Lord, with you anything is possible”. Amen.

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them sing joyful praises forever. Spread your protection over them, that all who love your name may be filled with joy.
Psalms 5:11 NLT
https://bible.com/bible/116/psa.5.11.NLT

Worshipping Warriors

Let the praises of God be in their mouths, and a sharp sword in their hands— to execute vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples, to bind their kings with shackles and their leaders with iron chains, to execute the judgment written against them. This is the glorious privilege of his faithful ones. Praise the Lord !
Psalms 149:6‭-‬9 NLT

A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.
Ephesians 6:10‭-‬18 NLT

Help us Lord, to praise you even at the gutsy opening of our eyes, even with those groanings of our waking moments that are unintelligible but that prepare us for the day ahead. Like a great roar of a lion, may our loud yoaning and groaning, be like a battle cry that this worshipping warrior is risen to see victory manifest in the will of God brought forth on earth as it is in heaven. May we rise and put on the full armor of God, remembering those things that equip us and send us forth are not pour own striving, but are the vey spirit and power of Christ in us going forth. And may our prayers not be so much about the changing of circumstances, but of the revealing of you, the revealing of hearts, the repentance and reconciliation of your people to your kingdom purpose and calling. May we cry out for the lost and the hurrying and the dead and the dying to find hope, faith, love and life in you. May we both pray for and remind our family, friends, nation, leaders of the whole Word of God, and may it be rightly divided to both bind their consciences to resist ungodly temptations and loosen your spirit to bring life and victory. May our prayers and the spoken Word of God rise powerfully in the name of Jesus, to see demons bound to depart and be replaced by your presence so they might never never return, and to loose your warring angels to execute the judgements written against those who oppose you. Remind us to stand firm and fully prepared. You are not only the light to our path, but the peace that we have found in you establishes pour footsteps. Guard ours hearts, our minds, our words, and our actions against whatever might muddy our testimony, stumble our brother, or hinder our prayers. Make straight what was once crooked, oh Lord, and overflow into our lives so that territories may be expanded, lost may be found, needy may find help, hopeless may know hope, the hurt may know healing, and the proud may know the valley. Thank you, Lord. You are faithful and true and may we sing your praises with our lives today. Amen.