The Logic of Prayer (Psalm 17)

PSALM 17

1 A Prayer of David. Hear a just cause, O LORD, Attend to my cry; Give ear to my prayer [which is] not from deceitful lips. 2 Let my vindication come from Your presence; Let Your eyes look on the things that are upright. 3 You have tested my heart; You have visited [me] in the night; You have tried me and have found nothing; I have purposed that my mouth shall not transgress. 4 Concerning the works of men, By the word of Your lips, I have kept away from the paths of the destroyer. 5 Uphold my steps in Your paths, [That] my footsteps may not slip. 6 I have called upon You, for You will hear me, O God; Incline Your ear to me, [and] hear my speech. 7 Show Your marvelous lovingkindness by Your right hand, O You who save those who trust [in You] From those who rise up [against them]. 8 Keep me as the apple of Your eye; Hide me under the shadow of Your wings, 9 From the wicked who oppress me, [From] my deadly enemies who surround me. 10 They have closed up their fat [hearts]; With their mouths they speak proudly. 11 They have now surrounded us in our steps; They have set their eyes, crouching down to the earth, 12 As a lion is eager to tear his prey, And like a young lion lurking in secret places. 13 Arise, O LORD, Confront him, cast him down; Deliver my life from the wicked with Your sword, 14 With Your hand from men, O LORD, From men of the world [who have] their portion in [this] life, And whose belly You fill with Your hidden treasure. They are satisfied with children, And leave the rest of their [possession] for their babes. 15 As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.

PSALM 17:1-15, NKJV

THE LOGIC OF PRAYER

I have a teenager who has learned to argue. I liked it a lot better when she would ask for something and if we ever said, “no,” All we needed to do was say no, and it was enough. Those days are gone. She now needs us to give her a compelling reason as to why we said, “no.” Once she hears our reason, she will attempt to help us see things her way. She has learned to argue. The rational part of her brain is growing. She has suddenly become very intellectually interesting and smart. Her appeals for things have become better as well. Instead of just asking to go hang out with her friends, she has learned to suggest where she will be, what times, who she will be with, who else will be aware, and most importantly, how this plan of hers would benefit me as her dad. She knows what I will ask and has already worked her logic on my possible objections to make her petitions more appealing.

Often when we pray, we offer God just a bunch of random concerns. There certainly isn’t anything wrong with that, for we are told to, “cast all our cares on Him, for he cares for us.” (1 Peter 5:7). But I think we can pray better by applying a little of God’s Word and logic to our prayers. (Not better in the sense that we will get an answer we want, but better in the sense praying with confidence that what we are asking for is more in line with God’s will than a random petition.)

My daughter learned to amend her own would be petitions because as she brought previous petitions, she heard the answers and the objections. In short, she listened to my concerns. In the same way the more we read God’s word, the more we will know God and the more we will know about God. This will help us weed through the rambling and get to the heart of the issue, “What is God’s will in this matter?” By reading the scripture we are informed in our praying. We can ask God confidently for him to forgive our sin, we can pray behind the Psalms and ask him like a shepherd to lead us, feed us, and bring us home safely. In praying for children we can remind ourselves that he cares for little ones. In praying for the sick we can be reminded that he is a God who heals. In praying for the grieving, we can be reminded that Jesus knows what death is like and has promised to bring us to the other side.

What we see David doing here isn’t just praying random thoughts, but he is applying logic to his petitions. God delights in truthful lips and so David confesses his honesty. He knows that God defends the righteous and so he pleads for the Lord to do just that. David’s petitions for God to hear his prayer have come with a little work on his part to offer prayers that He knows align with God’s character.

PRAYER

Father, thankyou that you hear our prayers. Thank you that you have given us free access to call out to you in prayer. I am grateful that you have told us to boldly approach your throne of grace. I am grateful that you have promised to never leave or forsake us and that you provide for the needs of those who belong to you. Today I ask you to provide for me all that I need in Jesus Christ. As I meditate on your word help me to examine my own life. Let me be a man of honesty and integrity in a way that pleases you. Give me contentment in your provision to let you deal with those who unjustly accuse me. Let me stand before you as my judge and let my ears listen to what you would say. Keep me as the apple of your eye, hide me under the shadow of your wing. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

I’m reading and blogging the Psalms Through The Summer. I’d love for you to join me. You can find out a little more here.

The Benefits of A Sheltered Life (Psalm 16)

PSALM 16

1 A Michtam of David. Preserve me, O God, for in You I put my trust. 2 [O my soul], you have said to the LORD, “You [are] my Lord, My goodness is nothing apart from You.” 3 As for the saints who [are] on the earth, “They are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.” 4 Their sorrows shall be multiplied who hasten [after] another [god]; Their drink offerings of blood I will not offer, Nor take up their names on my lips. 5 O LORD, [You are] the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You maintain my lot. 6 The lines have fallen to me in pleasant [places]; Yes, I have a good inheritance. 7 I will bless the LORD who has given me counsel; My heart also instructs me in the night seasons. 8 I have set the LORD always before me; Because [He is] at my right hand I shall not be moved. 9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will rest in hope. 10 For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. 11 You will show me the path of life; In Your presence [is] fullness of joy; At Your right hand [are] pleasures forevermore.

PSALM 16:1-11

THE BENEFITS OF A SHELTERED LIFE

We often use the term a “sheltered life” in a derogatory manner. We might say something like, “They have lived a sheltered life.” We are usually talking about someone who hasn’t seen many of the evils of this world. 

A sheltered life isn’t really that bad. If you could be preserved from evil, wouldn’t you want to be? Would you rather witness someone degraded into doing all sorts of things for the next high or be protected from such things? Would you rather your children be surrounded and influenced by wickedness or preserved from such things?

It’s not as though you can’t still work and do ministry among those who have been hammered by theirs sins and the sins of others, but that you are preserved from some sin and it’s effects. You can still minister among the homeless without being homeless. You’re eyes can be wide open to the severity of addiction in your neighborhood without being addicted yourself. To be sheltered in this sense it to be protected from the harm of sinful living.

Ultimately, a sheltered life is a protected life. You are sheltered from a storm of influences that have the potential to hurt you. In this sense, I want a sheltered life and I want my kids to have a sheltered life!

The way we have this type of sheltered life is to pursue the Lord’s commands. It is to seek what God has for us more than what we would want for ourselves. It’s learning to live within boundaries set up by our trust in God’s word. It’s found in delighting in the Lord. It’s found in being content.

PRAYER

Father, I confess that too often I have not sought shelter in you and have lives a less sheltered life than I could have. Too many times I have pursued things that have only brought me to a place of temptation, sin, and shame. Today I ask that you would set my heart right in you and that I would pursue the things that will be of greatest gain in my life. Help me to know you more through your word, be content in your provision, and know when to leave well enough alone. Let my heart find rest and shelter in you today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

I’m reading and blogging the Psalms Through The Summer. I’d love for you to join me. You can find out a little more here.

Who Can Dwell With God? (Psalm 15)

PSALM 15

1 A Psalm of David. LORD, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? 2 He who walks uprightly, And works righteousness, And speaks the truth in his heart; 3 He [who] does not backbite with his tongue, Nor does evil to his neighbor, Nor does he take up a reproach against his friend; 4 In whose eyes a vile person is despised, But he honors those who fear the LORD; He [who] swears to his own hurt and does not change; 5 He [who] does not put out his money at usury, Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these [things] shall never be moved.

PSALM 15:1-5, NKJV

WHO CAN DWELL WITH GOD?

I kicked a man out of my house one time. I told him, he had to go. He had gotten too comfortable with my family, it was late, he hurled a backhanded insult and I had had enough. Admittedly he was like a puppy breaking in his baby teeth, he didn’t know that his comments packed such a bite. He was intending it as playful, but it hurt and I let him know by kicking him out. It wasn’t acceptable to “play” that way in “my” house. When it comes to considering the house of the Lord, since we are all sinners, are there character issues at stake for who is welcome in the house of the Lord? Would he turn anyone away? Lots to ponder as we jump into this passage this morning.

This song address the question of what kind of worshippers are welcomed in the house of the LORD. It was sung by travelers with anticipation and education in mind. The children as well as the adults would have been involved in singing and meditating on God’s word all along the way. Their hearts were being prepared for worship. I think one of the things we miss by traveling the way we do to church these days is that we have little time to prepare our hearts for worship.  

The question that is asked in this Psalm is very real, but in a poetic sense is something like this, “Who can go to God’s house and be invited to stay as a guest? or, Who does God want to come over? or, Who gets to stay at God’s house?” 

Growing up my in-laws used to have all sorts of people over at the house. If you were going to come over and stay, you had to abide by a few simple house rules. They weren’t anything crazy, but if you were going to be there you were going to abide by a few ground rules. You had to wear a shirt to dinner, wait until after the blessing to eat, etc. In a much more serious way, this Psalm asks the question, “what kind of characteristics must I have if I am going to dwell in the house of God?” 

It is important to notice that these are not the means by which we are saved, but rather what it means to be saved (Sam Storms). It’s not what we do to get through the door, but what kind of company we are once we are saved. We are not saved by our good works, but we are saved to good works. The question isn’t so much, “who makes it into heaven?” as much as it is, “what kind of people are in heaven?” The answer flows in verses 2-5. We must be people of genuine integrity. This is the work the Lord must be doing in our lives. This must be the work we are willing for the Lord to do in our lives.

PRAYER

Father, thank you for the invitation to salvation by grace through faith in you. Thank you that we are not saved by our works, but thank you that You do work in us to be more and more conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. I pray that I would fit the description laid out in this Psalm today. I need to be a man of integrity, reflecting your goodness to those around me. I want to feel comfortable in your house because I have been more and more conformed to the image of Jesus. Thank you again for your overwhelming grace and goodness. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

I’m reading and blogging the Psalms Through The Summer. I’d love for you to join me. You can find out a little more here.

A New Song From Old Pieces (Psalm 14)

PSALM 14

1 To the Chief Musician. [A Psalm] of David. The fool has said in his heart, “[There is] no God.” They are corrupt, They have done abominable works, There is none who does good. 2 The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there are any who understand, who seek God. 3 They have all turned aside, They have together become corrupt; [There is] none who does good, No, not one. 4 Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge, Who eat up my people [as] they eat bread, And do not call on the LORD? 5 There they are in great fear, For God [is] with the generation of the righteous. 6 You shame the counsel of the poor, But the LORD [is] his refuge. 7 Oh, that the salvation of Israel [would come] out of Zion! When the LORD brings back the captivity of His people, Let Jacob rejoice [and] Israel be glad.

PSALM 14:1-7, NKJV

A NEW SONG FROM OLD PIECES

One of the churches I used to serve had a woman who would make a “breakfast cake” every week and set it out in the foyer with doughnuts. Every week the cake was the same shape and size, it had the same general texture, but it was almost always a different cake than the week before. Sometimes it had a banana-nut taste, other weeks it was pumpkin, still other weeks I’m pretty sure I tasted bits of apple or pear, then there were weeks that it definitely had chocolate chips. Then someone told me the secret, the cakes she made were, “whatever is on hand cakes”. She used the same base of flour, eggs, oil, or whatever and then would see what she had “on hand” to make the rest of the cake. If it was baking with apples earlier in the week, we got an apple cake. If she had done a banana nut bread earlier, we had a banana-nut cake, etc., etc. Sometimes the cakes had peculiar combinations that somehow seemed to work really well (my favorite, banana-nut-chocolate chip!).

That’s kind of what we have with this Psalm here. It’s got the basic set up of a good Psalm. All the structure, theological depth, etc. is there, but it seems like many of the ingredients were borrowed. Not only that, but some of this Psalm is quoted later in the New Testament.

It reminds me of the first time I had a real conversation with a friend about Jesus. I had never lead someone to faith in Christ before. I didn’t know that there are different “approaches” to sharing my faith, we simply had a conversation and I presented the gospel in a way that I understood it and it made sense to me. It wasn’t a cookie cutter approach. We didn’t walk down the Romans Road, or go over the four spiritual laws (different approaches to sharing the gospel). I just simply quoted the verses I knew about the things we were talking about. It was encouraging to me because I was seeing how to apply scripture to a given situation and it was helpful to my friend.

David writes a new song with familiar words that in several generations will become an old song with familiar words. God uses the lyrics of this song throughout the scripture because they carry key truths about who he is and who we are. They are relevant for worship in every generation because they speak to the greatness of God and our desperate need of Him.

I can’t help but think of all the old songs, made new in my generation. I love it when a musician plays an old tune or sings an old lyric for modern ears. I can’t help but think of what Chris Tomlin has done with Amazing Grace, My Chains Are Gone.

PRAYER

Father, Thank you for this old song made new. We all truly stand in desperate need of you. Let us not brag on our positions in life as though we have achieved something great. Let us walk in humbleness and holiness because of your great work in our life. It is you the preserved the Nation of Israel in the Old Testament and it is you who preserve those who trust in you even now. We are saved by grace, through faith, not of our selves. So let us sing with confidence today of your great grace and goodness. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

I’m reading and blogging the Psalms Through The Summer. I’d love for you to join me. You can find out a little more here.

God’s Word is Consistently True (Psalm 12)

PSALM 12

1 To the Chief Musician. On an eight-stringed harp. A Psalm of David. Help, LORD, for the godly man ceases! For the faithful disappear from among the sons of men. 2 They speak idly everyone with his neighbor; [With] flattering lips [and] a double heart they speak. 3 May the LORD cut off all flattering lips, [And] the tongue that speaks proud things, 4 Who have said, “With our tongue we will prevail; Our lips [are] our own; Who [is] lord over us?” 5 “For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, Now I will arise,” says the LORD; “I will set [him] in the safety for which he yearns.” 6 The words of the LORD [are] pure words, [Like] silver tried in a furnace of earth, Purified seven times. 7 You shall keep them, O LORD, You shall preserve them from this generation forever. 8 The wicked prowl on every side, When vileness is exalted among the sons of men.

PSALM 12:1-8

GOD’S WORD IS CONSISTENTLY TRUE

We live in a world where it seems like it is becoming more difficult just to find someone who will tell you the truth. Gone are the days of decent, good and unbiased reporting. We have news stations that report down political lines and share mostly commentary. If you want conersvative news go to FOX News and read the Wall Street Journal. If you want liberal news go to MSNBC or CNN and read the Washington Post or the New York Times. The same event will take on two different meanings as everyone dissects it and talks about it from their angle. Everyone puts their spin on it. We quickly pick our sides and line up. 

Sometimes I think finding truth can be like going to a maze of mirrors at the carnival!  Some make you look tall, some make you look short, some make you look fat, some make you look skinny, some put your gut up in your chest, some make your head fat and lots more in between.  Somewhere in the middle of it all there is a real mirror, but you don’t know which one is telling the truth. We live in a culture that believes it can cut and resize the truth to its own liking. 

In the midst of such corruption we can wonder,  how do we get right side up again? What can we trust? Do we just buy any old lie or do we become so jaded and bitter that we refuse to trust anything that anyone says. What do we do? 

Have you ever been disoriented? David is looking for where to go when His world does not make sense.  I am told that there are conditions that a pilot can fly in that become very disorienting and they can’t trust your feelings. In those instances they have to trust their instruments. No matter what their gut tells them, the instruments are what will get them home safely.  

David looks to God. The pure promises of God’s Word are what will guide him home. He can’t put his trust in what others around him might say. This is the way out of this mess! God sees through it all! Through all the lies, the misinformation and the propaganda. God will preserve his people!

The other day our cat was watching TV. Our youngest daughter was watching Frozen and every once and a while you could see that cat jut out his paw as if he were trying to catch a snowflake on the television. For all his effort, he didn’t have any luck catching anything. There was a lot more between the cat and the snowflake than he could comprehend. 

David reminds us that though we live in a world filled with wicked falsehoods and it may seem that it is getting worse and worse. That there is a lot more between the lies that swirl around and the believer than we could even imagine. So while the wicked plot and prowl, God’s eternal purposes will be fulfilled. His word stands forever and he will preserve his people from falsehood.  

So What is Psalm 12 saying to us? 

  • Lets not look to our culture for truth.
  • Let’s not look to studies, statistics, science, (those things are useful tools, but not indicators of truth. 
  • Let’s not look to politics.
  • Let’s not look to our neighbors. 
  • Rather, Let us look to the Pure Word of God.

PRAYER

Father, I confess like David, I need help! It seems a lot harder these days to know who is telling the truth and integrity has gone out of style. I ask for your wisdom and discernment in my life. Help me to see the truth in every area of my life. I cling to your word and ask that I would walk with integrity because I know it and I know you through it. I pray that you would preserve me from the wickedness of my generation. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

I’m reading and blogging the Psalms Through The Summer. I’d love for you to join me. You can find out a little more here.

Jesus didn’t come to die, but to beat death (Matthew 1-4)

Have you ever read the geneology in Matthew chapter one? It’s still kind of a new thing for Americans to rediscover their geneology. (A cousin did some geneological work for us and discovered that some of our ancestors were on the Mayflower!) However, there are places around the world where your geneology is your resume. If you don’t have the right ancestory, you don’t get the job!

It is neat to hear the interesting details about your ancestors but why do we get Jesus’ ancstery here? One reason is to display that he was descended from King David. The Messiah would have a claim to the Davidic throne. The other reason is to display the humanity of Jesus.

The bible teaches that Jesus was perfectly God and perfectly man. In theological terms we call this they hypostatic union (Jesus is 100% man and 100% God). So when it comes to his geneology, it’s interesting to learn what “kind of people” were in Jesus’ family tree.

Like most family tree’s there are the stand outs and there are the generations that we’d all rather pretty much try and forget. There are some really great folks listed in Matthew chapter one, but what jumps out to most people are the women on the list. (Generally women weren’t included in geneologies.)

Woman or man, every one of the ancestors in the geneology of Jesus were sinful human beings. Abarahm and Isaac both lied about their relationships to thier wives and put the covenant promise of God at risk. Jacob decieved his father and stole Esau’s blessing. Judah wanted to finagle his way out of a legal and moral obligation to Tamar. Tamar disguised herself and slept with her father-in-law. Rahab was a prostitute before she married Salmon. David commited adultery with another man’s wife and then had him killed. Solomon worshiped false gods and married numerous foreign wives. We really don’t have time to list it all sinful things Jesus’ ancestors did to get the picture (and those are only the sins we know about).

Jesus stepped into this long line of sinners to take away their sin. I’m grateful for that, because I come from a long line of sinners as well. Everyone in that long line of sinners that came before Jesus… died. And I know that short of His return, I’ll die one day too. Death and sin go together and with them comes sorrow. The good news is that Jesus came to conquire sin. He didn’t come to die, but to beat death. He was born into humanity so that we might be born again.

Father, thank you for the perftect atonement that can be found in Jesus who became a man so that he might liberate fallen humanity. Thank you for sending him to the cross for my sin and raising him from the dead that I might have eternal life. Sometimes I still struggle to embrace the depth to which you love us. Help me to grasp how to love others like you have loved me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Join us in reading though the New Testament in 90 Days! You can find the plan and previous posts here.

Do I Boast in the Lord or in Myself? The Second Part of Gideon’s Story (Judges 7)

This story is all about boasting, a special kind of boasting, boasting not in our own ability, but in God’s ability to save. That’s important because as long as we are boasting in our own accomplishments we will never have time to trust God to save us.

 Have you ever heard the story of the Emperor’s new clothes? It goes a little something like this: The emperor hires two new tailors to make a suit for him. He pays a nice sum of money, they take measurements, and he expects them to return with a brilliant suit. The tailors are tricky folks and they play on the emperor’s gullibility and desire to be loved by others. They tell him that they have made a one of a kind unique suit, in fact it is so special that only those who are pure of heart can see how splendid it really is.

So it comes time to try one the suit and they show up with a box of nothing. They go through the motions just like they were laying out a real suit, but there is nothing there. They ask the emperor to disrobe so he can wear the special new suit. The emperor doesn’t see a suit, but not wanting to feel stupid, pretends he does. They pretend to help him fit in the suit. They ask him if it’s too snug, or if it fits just right and then they go on praising him, telling him how fine he looks in his new suit.

Then they start to call the castle staff in starting with the butlers and maids. They describe to these kind gentle folks that only those pure of heart and fit for service in the palace can see how splendid the fabric really is. Each person who comes in is afraid to admit that if they say the emperor is naked that it will reveal that they are not pure of heart and were never meant for palace work anyway. Finally there whole palace is in an uproar about how brilliant the emperor’s suit is. No one dare says that they can’t see it and they all go on pretending in order to cover their shame.

The next thing you know someone yells out, “Let’s have a parade and show everyone how brilliant your new suit is!” and of course that’s a good idea because everyone in the palace is pretending to be able to see this imaginary suit.  The situation escalates quickly and the emperor is now marching out in front of his whole castle staff down the road through the village. People are running ahead announcing the reason for the visit from the emperor and that only those, “pure of heart, fit for a kingdom like ours can see how brilliant the suit really is.” The band assembles. The people, not wanting to betray their inability to see the suit all play along.

Then the procession rounds a corner and a little child who didn’t hear the announcement looks up and sees the king marching naked through the street with all his staff behind him, with the band playing, with all the people telling him how wonderful he looks in his new suit and says, “you’re naked!”

The charade is up! Everyone’s worst suspicions were realized. There never was a suit, it was all made up by some lazy tailors who wanted the kings money.

In a way we are like the king and all the towns folk when we boast about ourselves and what we have done. Boasting is like the emperor’s new clothes because we all stand in need, but boasting ignores that real need and shifts focus onto a lie that says, “I have enough.” People who have a problem boasting about themselves are trying to cover over a real need. To put it in perspective it’s like saying, “I know I am a sinner, but I’m really good at basketball,” or “I know that I can’t forgive that person for what they’ve done to me, but I’m really beautiful.” Or “I know that I’m going to spend eternity away from God in a place called hell, but man can I sing.” Boasting in ourselves is like the king who boasted in his new outfit. He was actually boasting in his ignorance.

The nation of Israel was overrun by Midianites. God had sent word that he would deliver them through the hand of Gideon, but He was going to do it in a way that it was obviously God who won the victory. The Israelites needed to know that even in their weakness that God was strong. They needed to boast not in themselves, in their nakedness, but in the God who covers over sin and provides for deliverance.

  1. When we are WEAK, we see God’s STRENGTH

Then Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) and all the people who were with him rose early and encamped beside the spring of Harod. And the camp of Midian was north of them, by the hill of Moreh, in the valley. The LORD said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’ Now therefore proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home and hurry away from Mount Gilead.'” Then 22,000 of the people returned, and 10,000 remained. And the LORD said to Gideon, “The people are still too many. Take them down to the water, and I will test them for you there, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ shall go with you, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ shall not go.” So he brought the people down to the water. And the LORD said to Gideon, “Every one who laps the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, you shall set by himself. Likewise, every one who kneels down to drink.” And the number of those who lapped, putting their hands to their mouths, was 300 men, but all the rest of the people knelt down to drink water. And the LORD said to Gideon, “With the 300 men who lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hand, and let all the others go every man to his home.” (Judges 7:1-7 ESV)

Did you catch that? God reduced the size of Gideon’s army by over 99%! First, let’s get one thing straight the 32,000 people he gathered together weren’t enough to take on the enemy! We are told that the soldiers of Midian numbered around 135,000!

So let’s do a little battle math. Let’s assume that all things are equal and so every guy can kill one guy. You’d need 135,000 guys to fight for you, not 32,000. Let’s say that you’re guys are really awesome and they do have the home court advantage so they are good for at least 2 of the other guys. You still need about 68,000.

Put it in money terms. Let’s say you’re trying to get enough money together to buy a really nice car. Something like a Lambrogini. You find one decked out, on sale for $135,000.  You don’t have $135,000 so you raise money, you promise rides out to your friends if they invest, you pick up odd jobs, you wash dogs, you sell your parents stuff at yard sales and you work really hard and you come up with $32,000. It’s impressive right? But it’s not enough to buy the car, but given your skills in raising the money you may feel like it’s enough to enter a negotiation. Now imagine that $20,000 walks off and you are left with $12,000 to negotiate with for a $135,000 car. Now imagine that it’s down to $300… Do you know what kind of car you buy for $300? At that point you are just buying it for the parts.

How ridiculous to walk into a car negotiation for a $135,000 car with only $300 in your pocket! You wouldn’t even call the guy. It’s not enough!

That is how it looks for Israel when it comes to defeating Midian. It’s impossible! No one in their right mind is looking around at any point in this whole thing thinking, “I think we have enough guys, send some home.” In fact, if you’re just one of the guys waiting to go to war and you see everyone else walking off because of this or that, you get worried. Look at verse 2 though, it’s important for the LORD to illustrate a point to Gideon and all of Israel. He is the one who delivers.

In our society we look at weakness as a flaw. We don’t like weak characters in our movies. We love it when one guy comes in and is able to do what a whole team of folks would do in real life. We like the strong. We like the strong so much that sometimes we fake it. We put masks on to cover over our weakness. We boast in our accomplishments so you won’t see our failures and we talk about the failures of others so that you are too busy looking somewhere else to see us for who we really are. The paradox of the gospel enters at this point because no strong men can be saved; no pretender will be either. Only those who come to a point of honesty about their weakness will truly ever be made strong.

The Apostle Paul, perhaps the most preeminate Apostle from history said this:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10, ESV

Paul knew that acknowledging weakness isn’t a curse, it’s a blessing. Being weak and realizing that there is no way that you can get out of a situation puts you in a position to give all the praise and glory to God. Paul looked at his own circumstance and knows that it is God who provides for him. The LORD is his strength and you are never stronger than when you have the LORD on your side.

Here is how you worship. When you know exactly how much God has done for you because you were unable to do it yourself you celebrate. You want to see a worship service? Go hang out with people who used to be drug dealers and prostitutes but have been saved by the grace of God. You want to hear people sing God’s praise with passion, go hang out with inmates who met Jesus while in prison. Why? Because these people have a better picture of what it’s like to receive God’s forgiveness and strength over sin.

If you drop your wallet and I find it and hand it back to you, you might be grateful because there might have been $20 in there. How much more grateful would you be if I found it and it had $200, or even if it had $2000. Our gratitude grows with the money we feel like we’ve lost.

How much more grateful will we be when we know that God has forgiven our sins against him! Most of us don’t even realize just how much that is. We are uncelebratory in worship because we are used to faking strength and boasting in our own accomplishments that we don’t realize how much he has done for us! Just like we need to know and celebrate what God has done in delivering us from our sins, Israel needs to know God is their deliver in this moment. So it’s down to 300.

  • God is patient with us in our WEAKNESS

That same night the LORD said to him, “Arise, go down against the camp, for I have given it into your hand. But if you are afraid to go down, go down to the camp with Purah your servant. And you shall hear what they say, and afterward your hands shall be strengthened to go down against the camp.” Then he went down with Purah his servant to the outposts of the armed men who were in the camp. And the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the people of the East lay along the valley like locusts in abundance, and their camels were without number, as the sand that is on the seashore in abundance. When Gideon came, behold, a man was telling a dream to his comrade. And he said, “Behold, I dreamed a dream, and behold, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the camp of Midian and came to the tent and struck it so that it fell and turned it upside down, so that the tent lay flat.” And his comrade answered, “This is no other than the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel; God has given into his hand Midian and all the camp.” As soon as Gideon heard the telling of the dream and its interpretation, he worshiped. And he returned to the camp of Israel and said, “Arise, for the LORD has given the host of Midian into your hand.” (Judges 7:9-15 ESV)

So this is what we know about Gideon. He’s always asking second guessing the LORD’s plan. First when God appears to He asks for a sign and so the LORD burns up a meal that Gideon brought out. Then we didn’t talk about this but Gideon puts out a fleece and asks God that everything but the fleece would be wet in the morning, then he puts out on the next day and asks that only the fleece would be wet and everything else would be dry. Now God says, “If you are still scared to go into battle just sneak down there and listen to what they are saying.” God gives him a third sign that He will be with Gideon.

We might be prone to giving Gideon a hard time, but how many times do we play these same sorts of head games with ourselves. God might be leading you to share the gospel with a classmate and so you do things like. “OK God if you are really telling me to share with them, then they will be the first one in class today” or “They will be sitting up front by the teacher.” And all sorts of stuff like that. Just so you know, it’s not the devil telling you to share the gospel with someone and it wasn’t the devil wanting to free Israel. We just need some help and encouragement knowing that God is going to go with us.

Sometimes God does come down to our terms like he did with Gideon and the fleece. Most often he delivers on his terms, like with this dream that Gideon overhears the man talking about. Gideon is so pumped about this that he runs back and rallies the troops… all 300 of them and hatches a plan.

  • Often it isn’t a matter of supernatural ability, but natural ability used in a supernatural way. (Gideon is more like batman than superman)

And he divided the 300 men into three companies and put trumpets into the hands of all of them and empty jars, with torches inside the jars. And he said to them, “Look at me, and do likewise. When I come to the outskirts of the camp, do as I do. When I blow the trumpet, I and all who are with me, then blow the trumpets also on every side of all the camp and shout, ‘For the LORD and for Gideon.'” So Gideon and the hundred men who were with him came to the outskirts of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, when they had just set the watch. And they blew the trumpets and smashed the jars that were in their hands. Then the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the jars. They held in their left hands the torches, and in their right hands the trumpets to blow. And they cried out, “A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!” Every man stood in his place around the camp, and all the army ran. They cried out and fled. When they blew the 300 trumpets, the LORD set every man’s sword against his comrade and against all the army. And the army fled as far as Beth-shittah toward Zererah, as far as the border of Abel-meholah, by Tabbath. And the men of Israel were called out from Naphtali and from Asher and from all Manasseh, and they pursued after Midian. Gideon sent messengers throughout all the hill country of Ephraim, saying, “Come down against the Midianites and capture the waters against them, as far as Beth-barah, and also the Jordan.” So all the men of Ephraim were called out, and they captured the waters as far as Beth-barah, and also the Jordan. And they captured the two princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb. They killed Oreb at the rock of Oreb, and Zeeb they killed at the winepress of Zeeb. Then they pursued Midian, and they brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon across the Jordan. (Judges 7:16-25 ESV)

This plan is ingenious! Gideon’s men surround the camp. They wait for a shift change. This is important because here is what would have happened at a shift change. 1/3 of the army would have been asleep. 1/3 of the army would have just woken up and taken their spot to guard the perimeter of the camp. And 1/3 of the army would be walking back to their tents with their weapons having just come off guard duty. So the 1/3 of the guys who were asleep get woken up in the middle of the night. They hear the enemy trumpets. They grab their weapons and behold there are already armed men in the camp. They go straight to battle not knowing that they are fighting their own guys. The guys on guard duty turn around and see people fighting and think the enemy has already advanced through the camp and so they join the fray and a massive army destroys itself in one night.

The cool thing is that this little plan seems to be Gideon’s plan. God used Gideon in his weakness to hatch a really cool plan that would deliver the whole army into their hand without much fighting. Gideon’s God given military brilliance would have never come to light had he not been pushed into leading the nation of Israel.

They chase down the Midian leaders. The whole thing comes full circle as the leaders go into hiding and are eventually caught. Where are they caught? One is caught and beheaded at a winepress, like where Gideon was threshing wheat when the LORD appeared to him and the other was caught and beheaded at a rock, like the one the LORD showed Gideon that he would be with him by burning up a meal.

You might find yourself like a Gideon, hiding, thinking there is no way that God can use you. Can I tell you, He can and he will. You may have a calling to go across the room to share Jesus with a friend, coworker, family member, or even a stranger and you are wondering, “Will God go with me?” I can promise you, he does! It may not work out as you intend, but when you trust him he is with you. You may be scared because God has given you a vision much larger than you are and you wonder why or how it could ever be accomplished. Know this, when you are little, God is big. When you fear God, you don’t fear people.  

Day 18: Mark 1-3 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Mark 1-3 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

You may have noticed that Mark covers a lot of the same ground as Matthew, but he does it in a little quicker fashion. Mark also provides a few more details that we don’t necessarily see in Matthew.

Jesus goes to a solitary place to pray well before daylight (1:35). I’ve heard some folks use this as an argument that we should all do our devotions in the morning. I don’t know that that is the case. I am not as much of a morning person as I would like to be, but I am generally more focused late at night. I’m generally in God’s word both times. The more important thing I think is that Jesus needed alone time to pray and if he needed it, I probably need it even more. 

Another thing was how he named disciples and trusted them with some pretty big tasks (3:13-19).  Jesus knew that for his mission to be successful he had to not only share the burden of ministry but empower the disciples to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. If there was anyone who could do it better it was Jesus, yet rather than take the ministry back, he gave it away. Things have not changed that much in the church over 2000 years. We are still called to call new disciples, equip them and challenge them to take the gospel to the corners of the globe, this is how ministry multiplies.

There is a subtle theme emerging from Mark’s perspective. Jesus is being charged as a Sabbath breaker because he heals on the Sabbath (3:2). But we often see Jesus withdrawing and taking time to pray alone in ways that I doubt those charging him ever did. Jesus demonstrates what a real Sabbath looks like.

The application for me today is to make sure that the busier I get, the more time I find to slip into communion and fellowship with God.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

Find out about New Testament 90 – Here

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Hey I’ve Blogged through the book of Mark nearly 10 years ago! Go back and see some my older posts that share a little more detail!

Day 13: Matthew 16-18 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Matthew 16–18 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

In Chapter sixteen we are forced to contemplate the identity of Jesus. Peter makes the first assertion that Jesus is, “the Christ, Son of the Living God.” Towards the end of the chapter Jesus promises that some of his disciples will see Him coming in His kingdom before they die! At the beginning of the very next chapter they do exactly that as they see Jesus on the mount of transfiguration. This spiritually high event is followed by a low as the disciples are unable to heal a boy by casting out a demon. Jesus challenges their faith and tells them this kind only come out only by prayer and fasting. There is no presumption in casting out of demons, it is an utter and complete dependence on God. 

Chapter eighteen centers on the topic of forgiveness.   Often it is easier to see the sins of our brother than it is to see our own sin and so we condemn them and write them off as being purely evil… while we enjoy the pleasures and benefits of being God’s servant.

However, Jesus says you can’t live that way. You can’t write someone off for their sin against you.  He didn’t write you off.  He went to the cross for you and so for the sake of forgiveness and reconciliation the least you can do is walk across the room and lovingly confront the wrong (notice I said lovingly).

It’s easy to hate someone in their wrong doing.  You can count the tears, the lives affected, and try to put a value on the pain… but then again Jesus didn’t chose the to go to the cross for you when you were lovable. Don’t pretend like your sins don’t cost too.

You see we don’t forgive because we are commanded to and that is the end of the story.  We forgive because we are forgiven. When you realize your debt before God and what lengths he went to to absorb your debt against Him… well then that bit of unforgiveness in your heart just looks plain silly.

The power to forgive isn’t in you… The power to forgive comes from God alone. You see all sin is ultimately gets paid for… Either in your soul for ever in Hell, or Jesus on the cross.  At the end of the day all of us answer to God.  He is the only one who judges our hearts right.

Matthew eighteen also addresses church discipline. Church discipline is always done in love and in the hope of restoration. Lot’s of folks often quote Matthew 18:20, “Where two or three are gathered there I am also” in prayer gatherings. While it is true that Jesus is where his people are, this verse is in reference to church discipline. It can be such a tough matter to put someone out of the church that it helps to know that when great steps have been taken to restore and individual and they are still unrepentant, that Jesus is there. Trust me, if you have ever had to walk through the heart breaking steps of seeking restoration only to be met with a hardened heart over and over, It is comforting to know that Jesus is in your midst.

Here is how I am praying through this passage today:

LORD,  Thank you that you have made yourself known to us and that we can know you! I pray for my friends who don’t know you yet, and I pray that they would come to know you and trust you soon. I pray that I would continue to trust and depend on you. I thank you for disciplines like prayer and fasting that lead us closer. I pray that whenever sin enters into our relationships that we would seek forgiveness. I pray that I would be quick to repent when I have sinned and quick to forgive those who have sinned against me. I pray for those who are sinning and unrepentant. I pray for families who are being torn apart by sin. I pray for your church to love those who are falling away. Thank you for the calling you have placed on my life to shepherd your people. I pray that I would be faithful to you and accountable to others in every area of my life. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Day 10: Matthew 8-10 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Matthew 8 -10 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

What sticks out to me in these chapters this morning is the issue of faith and belief.  Jesus could and would heal, but those asking for healing knew that the power to heal wasn’t in their hands, it all belonged to Jesus. They weren’t just sending good vibes through the universe as if positive thinking would heal them. They weren’t trying to ignore the illness or deformity that plagued them, as though if they fooled themselves into thinking they were healthy it would make them healthy. NO… we see time and time again, there was a real and raw feeling of emptiness and brokenness that only Jesus could answer.

Go back with me to the paralytic man (9:1-8). Jesus said to the crowd, “For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?” (Matthew 9:5). Think about that question for just a moment. What does this paralyzed man want to hear? What is the desire of his heart?  He is broken. There is no other cure. There isn’t a miracle surgery out there that can change his condition. He is desperate… has come for healing and so if Jesus just merely wants to please this man and his friends, all Jesus has to do is heal this man and He’s got a fan.

But Jesus isn’t looking for a fan, He is looking to bring real healing into this man’s life, a healing that is deeper than this man even knows to look. He has come to heal the rift in his soul. He has come to forgive his sins and reconcile him to God! So he says, “Your sins are forgiven.” 

What does it cost to heal this man? Seemingly it’s just a few words upon the divine lips and this man is restored to health? What does it take to forgive this man of his sin? The story of the gospel of Matthew is not over. This pronouncement sets Jesus on a course for the cross.

Here is how I am praying through this passage today.

LORD, I thank you that you are a healing God. That in your kingdom there is no sickness or disease. I thank you that those of us who have been crushed by infirmity will find true relief in you. I praise you that sometimes we get a glimpse of the kingdom coming by seeing miracles of healing in our own day. Today, I ask that you would be pleased to work that kind of miracle for a friend of mine who is suffering. I lift up the many individuals I know who are sick and struggling with infirmity. I want to thank you that you are a forgiving God. Thank you for forgiving me. Today I pray for those who are lost in their sins and don’t know it. I ask that they would find true forgiveness through the mercy of the cross. I pray that we would all receive and realize the greatest gift of your grace. Thank you for calling me into ministry and giving me the charge to lead your people. I pray that you give me great grace and insight in preaching the gospel and pointing people to you . IN JESUS NAME. AMEN

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

Find out about New Testament 90 – Here

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