Where Did the Giggles Go?

From Giggles to Guilt and Back Again

Psalms 38:4 My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear.

Today’s Psalm is quite a contrast to the 37th Psalm we studied last Thursday. We’ve gone from giggles to guilt. David has moved from delight to despair. But before we just brush it off as emotional instability, let’s consider the reality of what is happening. David has sinned. We are not told what the sin is, and that’s probably good or we would find reason to exclude ourselves from the message of this Psalm. His sin has resulted in health problems (vs. 3), heaviness of heart (vs. 8), hopelessness (vs. 10), and broken relationships (vs. 11). His guilt has overwhelmed him. He compares the weight of the guilt to a burden too heavy to bear.

I have been deeply convicted for the past few weeks that revival is necessary for the church. But I believe it can only come if it begins with me…and you. Revival starts with prayer – specifically prayers of repentance.

We must pause to consider that we may not take seriously enough the guilt of our sin. I see an “easy believism” in our modern-day evangelical movement that is leading people to a false sense of security. By that I mean that far too many people believe that they are saved from their sin because of their head knowledge of the facts of Christianity yet have never experienced the death of their flesh and the resurrection of the life of Christ in their hearts which transforms their lives. They reject the idea of repentance. They conform God to an image of their own making, and attempt to use Him as nothing more than a blessing machine for their lives.

The reality of this was demonstrated to me several years ago during a conversation I was having with a young man. He was telling me about some friends of his who profess to be Christians and were even involved in a Bible Study with him. They fell in love and decided to get married. After the engagement they moved in together. When confronted with this by a Christian friend, they rejected his “opinion” of what he told them was sin, and they said, “What right do you have to judge us. We will be judged by God alone.”

Your reaction to that statement will indicate your true beliefs about God. You will either agree with that couple and claim your rights to live according to your own opinions, or you will fall on your face with a righteous and healthy fear of God and consider the grace He has granted you to remain pure and blameless in the midst of this corrupt generation, praying the whole time that you will not fall into the same complacency and self-serving attitude about sin.

How great is the deception of Satan in the lives of people when they can proclaim their right to sin with an understanding that God will judge them, and yet not fear the judgment. Who do they really think God is? And why do they really believe they are truly saved when they think that way? How can people claim to be taking delight in the Lord while they are taking delight in their sin?

When we delight in the Lord, we will hate sin! When we walk in fellowship with the Lord, sin offends us because it interferes with the delight of our fellowship. When we are in love with the Lord we cannot be in love with the world. When anything threatens to interfere with our relationship with Jesus, we are to reject it and willfully turn from it. We must want nothing to interfere with the beauty of our relationship with Christ. That is the test of true love. True love immediately and forcefully rebels against anything that threatens the love relationship.

That’s how your marriage should be. Your spouse should see you immediately and forcefully rejecting anything that comes into your field of vision or sphere of influence that could threaten your intimacy. If your spouse can’t see that, then how are they supposed to trust your love for them? Anything that threatens intimacy with the one you claim to love should overwhelm you with guilt and a burden that is too heavy to bear.

So it is with Christ. No matter how we have humanly qualified sin as small or justified it as necessary for some personal fulfillment, that sin should immediately overwhelm us with guilt and Godly sorrow that drives us to repentance. I think we as Christians have quenched the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives to such a degree that “little” sins no longer affect us. Maybe the reason the power is gone from the church today is because the lives of the people of God are filled with sin that is excused as insignificant.

Let us prove that we take delight in the Lord by not taking delight in sin. Let us fall on our knees today and confess our deception and repent of our sin. Let us cry out to God for forgiveness. Let us proclaim with David, O LORD, do not forsake me; be not far from me, O my God. Come quickly to help me, O Lord my Savior.

Then, and only then, will the giggles return.

Real Men Giggle

Learn to Giggle

Psalms 37:3 – 7 Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.

Of all the Psalms we have studied so far on our journey, this Psalm has more scenic overlooks for me than any other. I no sooner get back out onto the road and start moving through the Psalm and I must turn off and contemplate the beauty of what God is saying to me. Time does not permit me to take you through every stop, so let me focus on where I spent most of my time this morning.

In verses 3-7 we are given four guidelines that if followed will bring great blessing to our lives. Here they are:

  1. Trust in the Lord and do good. When we fully trust our lives to God’s care, then we can fully do God’s will knowing that the outcome is in God’s hands. When we do, we are promised a dwelling place and the provision of all of our needs.
  2. Delight yourself in the Lord. More about this in a moment.
  3. Commit your way to the Lord. In everything you do, do it all in the name of the Lord and for His honor and glory and this will be the result – you will be declared righteous and just in the sight of all men. Even though they may speak evil against you for a time, your consistent commitment to Christ will shine the light of Jesus into their lives. (Matt. 5:16 – let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.)
  4. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him. Even though you may suffer for your stand for Christ, be still. Don’t try to fix everything. Don’t look for manmade solutions. Wait patiently for God’s timing and outcomes, and keep doing good. (1 Peter 4:19 – So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.)

But back to #2 – Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. When you read that the first time where did your mind quickly focus its attention? Mine went right to getting the desires of my heart. How quick we are to jump into selfishness. How fast we are to latch on to any statement that fulfills our own objectives. The flesh is easily resurrected, isn’t it?

Why are we not first drawn into the delight we are to have in the Lord? I think it’s because our hearts are not soft and pliable enough to find joy in the simple things God is doing for us and giving us each day. The word delight is interesting. It is used only 10 times in the Bible, and two of them are right here in this Psalm. The word means to be soft, pliable, dainty, and delicate. One Hebrew dictionary even uses the term effeminate. Not a great word to describe the men who are reading this, or the one writing it. We want power. We want action. We want adventure. We want to be tough. But God wants us to be soft enough and in touch with our emotions enough to know Him intimately. Let me try to make the application for all of us, male or female.

I have a grandson who is adventuresome. He is mister activity. When he was younger He loved horses, and would ride his stick-horse all around the house every day. It’s the first thing he went for whenever he arrived at our house. He put on his hat, grabbed the horse, and galloped around yelling “Giddy up, cowboy!” He was having fun.

But one evening I saw him truly take delight in something. He came out to the kitchen carrying a book that made sounds to accompany the pictures. He wanted to show me something. He sat down in the middle of the floor and turned to a page with a picture of a man sleeping. He pushed the sound button and I heard snoring. He waited for a response from me. “Where’s that snoring coming from?” I asked. He started to giggle, and giggle, and giggle. He was taking delight in the response the sound of snoring was bringing from me. There was no activity, no running around, and no adventure. He was quiet and soft and pliable, and he was delighted.

We need to sit down and be soft and pliable before God. We need to realize that our greatest moments of delight will be found in hearing a response from God, and that God speaks in a still, small, and soft voice that is impossible to hear above the noise and adventure of our lives. The response we will hear is God’s will as He replaces our desires with His desires for our life, and then grants them.

What portion of our day is spent in pursuing the adventure of our own desires based on the strength of our own hearts? How often have we really heard the still small voice of God because we are making so much noise with our own activity? Men, why are we so afraid to be soft once in a while? God promised that when we are, He will give us the desires of our hearts. It is in the delicate moments of Christ infiltrating our hearts and softening them that we become real men – men who know the heart of God and understand His desires for our lives.

God didn’t ask us to not be men. He didn’t ask us to become effeminate. He didn’t ask us to stop taking risks and enjoying adventure and using our power. He just asked us to take delight in Him by staying soft enough to hear from Him.

So take some time today and every day to sit down and learn to giggle by hearing the voice of the Lord. It will not only refresh you, but it’s contagious to those around you.


Are We Practicing True Equality?

Love Practices Equality

Psalms 36:5 – 8  Your steadfast love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep. O LORD, you preserve both man and beast. How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights.

Songs have been written from these verses in Psalm 36. And rightly so. King David is contemplating God’s love. He describes it as immense – reaching to the heavens – priceless, and unfailing. When he thinks about how to illustrate God’s love from a human perspective, he declares this –  both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights.

Here we have what I think is the purest and most practical description of God’s love – He treats everyone equally!

When Jesus walked on the earth we saw God’s love in action. We saw God choose shepherds to hear the first announcement of Jesus’ birth. We watched Jesus choose tax collectors, fisherman, and societal unknowns as His disciples and ministry trainees. We were amazed when we saw Jesus touch lepers and fellowship with prostitutes.  We were overwhelmed with his love towards those who hated him and hung him on a cross when He asked God to forgive them for what they were doing. The social, cultural, political, or financial status of a person means nothing to Jesus – He loves them all equally! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings. 

WOW! What hope that gives us. Jesus will love me no matter what I’ve done or who I’ve been. How liberating!

Several years ago after a worship service where I had preached from God’s word about the encouraging endorsement God places on our lives and the eternal embrace of His love, a man with a criminal record came to my wife and said to her, I finally feel free. I can let go of the past and it doesn’t have to have any power over me any more. I am finally out from under the burden of my sin. When she told me that news I was overwhelmed with joy. Someone had found refuge in the shadow of God’s wings. That’s what makes God’s love priceless. People, no matter who they are, can meet God as they are.

The challenge for us is this: how can we get out of our comfort zones we have created for our lives and let the love of God be lived out in relationships with others no matter who they are? We must begin to show love to others equally as God does. Our love is not priceless nor is it unfailing. God’s love in us is! We cannot truly love others with our love, but we can let God’s love for others flow out of us. We can reject the fleshly tendency towards discrimination. We no longer need to choose our friends based on personal benefit or personality preference. We can overflow with the love of God that accepts people as they are for who they are and introduce them to the Savior who will transform their lives into what He wants them to be. No longer will we choose our relationships based on what we want people to be for us, but we will choose to relate to people based on what God will do with their lives. We will look at people with the compassionate and caring eyes of Jesus. We will touch the “lepers” of our society and we will fellowship with the outcasts of our culture so that they may find refuge in the shadow of God’s wings.

But in our efforts to reach out to the low among men we must not ignore the high among men. Sometimes it is easier to reach out to the needy than it is to reach out to those who believe they have everything they need. We must not forget that the earthly castles and kingdoms being built by the successful people around us are not truly satisfying their souls either, and that they need the love of God too. They may appear content, satisfied, and fulfilled on the outside, but inside they are longing for the priceless and unfailing love that only God can provide. Jesus said it is hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven because it is hard for them to give up their faith in their own accomplishments and treasures and put their faith in Him alone, but Jesus did not say it was impossible. We must reach out to the high as well as the low that are around us.

Someday, at God’s banquet table in heaven, we will feast on the abundance of God’s house. God will choose the seating arrangements. I will never know whether the person I am sitting next to was considered high or low among men, and they will not know that about me. All we will know is that in Christ we are equal and we are joint heirs of all things. Let’s make sure we start practicing that equality today.


Who Is the Real Enemy?

Identify the Right Enemy

Psalm 35:27  “Great is the LORD, who delights in the welfare of his servant!”

No cute stories today. No attention-grabbing quotes. Just good Bible study.

Go ahead – take the plunge.

As I began to read the 35th Psalm this morning, I was struck with the thought that this Psalm is an allegory of spiritual warfare. I think it would be wise for you to read it.


Now, after reading it, was it not your first impression that the Psalmist is talking about all of the people who oppose him and intend to harm him? It was mine.

But as I looked at it, knowing that David had many enemies and there is a personal application to his present circumstances, I wondered if there was a more significant application that reaches to us all. I especially thought that when I considered the context of phrases like “Then my soul will rejoice in the LORD, exulting in His salvation,” and “O LORD, who is like you, delivering the poor from him who is too strong for him, the poor and needy from him who robs him.” I began to think that this Psalm is an allegory that proclaims an eternal truth of salvation rather than just a testimony to David’s deliverance from personal enemies.

I am convinced that we are fighting the wrong enemy. We are paying far too much attention to people who are not really our enemies and by doing so the real enemies are more dangerous than ever because of our denial of their presence and power. Our enemies are not people, but rather the spiritual forces of evil, with a leader who roams the earth like a lion seeking to devour us.

The Apostle Peter recognized this when the Holy Spirit spoke through him and said,   Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

It is Satan and his demons who ultimately contend against us. (vs. 1) It is Satan and his demons who are the ones who seek after our lives and devise evil against us (vs. 4). It is Satan who stands before the throne of God as the accuser of the brothers of Christ and maliciously assaults us with false accusations. (vs. 11)

Yet it is the Lord Jesus Christ who takes hold of His shield and buckler, and draws His spear and javelin and becomes our salvation. (vs. 2-3) It is the LORD who will rouse Himself for our cause and vindicate us according to His righteousness. (vs. 23-24)

Then, in joyous celebration we will shout, “Great is the LORD, who delights in the welfare of his servant!”

So go back and read the whole Psalm again, this time as an allegory of the spiritual warfare that took place when Jesus Christ conquered the Enemy and brought us our salvation. Put yourself and your present situation into the Psalm, and replace the people you think are causing the problems with the spiritual forces that truly are. My guess is that you will discover a new perspective on things. And when you do, you too, like David, will be motivated to tell of the LORD’S righteousness and of His praise all the day long. (vs. 28)

Sing Like A Canary

Sing Like a Canary

Psalm 34:1  I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.

Okay, I get it. It’s pretty obvious what the Lord wants to teach me today.

Just as I was completing my journey to the office this morning, Ron Hutchcraft came on the radio with his daily devotional. It started like this:

Our dog, Missy, had to share our attention with another pet. Yeah, it was a canary that we named in honor of one of our Native American friends. We named the canary Cherokee. Now, this little yellow cheerleader was great for when you were in a bad mood because he never was! As soon as you uncovered his cage in the morning, he began warbling his repertoire of happy tunes. It might be a sunny day, and you had happy singing from him all day long. It might be a miserable day. Guess what? Happy singing all day long! It didn’t matter how the people around our canary felt; happy, stressed, noisy, quiet, or down. It just didn’t matter. No matter what, he was always singing!

My thoughts went back to what my attitude had been when I rolled out of bed this morning. I was tired of these allergies, and the cough that accompanies the constant sinus drainage. Three weeks is enough, and I’m ready to feel better.

When I arrived at the church and sat down at my desk to start my devotions, I opened my Bible to today’s Psalm – the 34th.

I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.

I skimmed over it, not wanting to face the fact of failure this early in the morning. I kept reading.

My soul makes its boast in the LORD…Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!

Okay, I get the point. I paused and confessed my prideful attitude to the LORD, and started reading again – this time with a spirit of anticipation of seeing the goodness of God.

  • I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears…This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. God hears me in my time of need and delivers me after I acknowledge Him with praise.
  • Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. Frowns and furrowed brows are replaced with radiant smiles when we look into the face of Jesus rather than the face of our circumstances.
  • The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. Even though I cannot see it, there is an embankment of divine construction surrounding me, which is impenetrable by the enemy of my soul, and the gate is guarded by the Angel of the Lord. At all times He is delivering me from the dangers that I cannot see.
  • Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! Why is my memory of all the goodness of God in the past so susceptible to being overwhelmed by the perceived magnitude of my current situation? I have tasted, and I have seen, and I can consider myself blessed if I choose at this moment to take refuge in Him and stop hoping for improved circumstances to change my attitude.

Then I read this final confirmation of God’s message to me:

       But those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Here’s what really challenges me – God has said that when I seek Him, and look at life from His perspective, I HAVE EVERYTHING I NEED TO HONOR GOD AND SERVE HIM.


Therefore, I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.

Deadly Distractions

Deadly Distractions

Psalm 33:1   Shout for joy in the LORD, O you righteous! Praise befits the upright.

I get distracted easily. I can be right in the middle of a…there’s a squirrel in my birdfeeder.

Now, where was I? Oh, I remember. I am easily distracted. Not only in my personal life, but in my spiritual life as well. As a follower of Christ I am also easily distracted. In fact, I think the whole church – the Body of Christ – is easily distracted and has fallen victim to a deadly ploy of God’s enemy the Devil. If Satan can distract us from the fundamental truths of the Gospel then He is succeeding at hindering the work of the Holy Spirit to accomplish the mission of Christ through the church.

I know what Jesus promised and I believe it – On this Rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. However, while the outside forces of evil cannot stop Jesus from building His kingdom, the internal influence of unfaithful people can certainly cause issues. And that is exactly what is happening.

My though process this morning all started when I read the 33rd Psalm. I underlined this phrase in verse 1 – Praise befits the upright. As I read on I was reminded of all the things for which I have reason to praise God.

  • His Word is upright, meaning straight and true.
  • His works are always done in faithfulness to His nature and character, so they are always good and for His glory.
  • The earth is full of His steadfast love.

Then I read verses 6 through 9, and was distracted by the realization that the truths they contain have become a huge distraction for the Christian community, and is one of the weapons our Enemy is using to keep us from spreading the Gospel.

By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.  He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap; he puts the deeps in storehouses.  Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!  For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.

It is fitting for the upright to praise God for CREATION. It is not fitting for His followers to be debating it or trying to make it fit within an evolutionary model. We have become so distracted by trying to blend our beliefs into a scientific model that we have minimized the very nature of God. We are guilty of worshiping our understanding of the creation rather than worshiping the Creator. (Romans 1:21) And as a result of not honoring God and giving Him thanks even when we cannot comprehend Him or His works, we have brought futile thinking into our churches so that some are even accepting the horrifying sins that result from exchanging the truth about God for a lie. (Romans 1:24-32) It is a terrible thing we have done, as followers of Jesus, to ourselves exchange the truth of God for a lie, and then justify it with a spiritual rationale of seeking higher knowledge and revelation.

Here’s what I see. Over the last few generations it has become increasingly popular to evaluate the fundamental truths of the Gospel by looking for possible alternative interpretations and applications. It all stems from man’s pride, in which he attempts to fulfill his need to know. We have been distracted by the possibility that we can answer eternal questions about the Infinite One within the confines of finite understanding. We have decided that there must be a way to explain the nature and power of God in a rational way so that unsaved people, who have no spiritual understanding, can accept what we believe.

The distractions we have chosen are designed by the Enemy of our souls to enhance our pride in our own knowledge. This stands directly opposed to faith, and as a result the church of Jesus Christ is weak and inept at standing as a beacon of hope in a dark world. We have engaged the culture on an intellectual level, and have removed faith from the foundation of who we are. We are choosing to trust in our own abilities and wisdom so that we can praise ourselves. We are distracted from praising God.

The Psalmist emphasizes the hopelessness of this distracted pursuit. The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples…The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.   The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue.

Our distracted into intellectualism is not the answer. It is a false hope. Our only hope lies in the fundamental truth that God is Who He says He is, and He has done exactly what He said He did. He is our hope – Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.  For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name.  Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you.

My friends, it is time for some deep soul-searching. We live in a generation that has validated the re-evaluation of the fundamental doctrines of God as a healthy pursuit. NO! It is a prideful pursuit to validate man’s identity, not God’s. Let us leave the distractions, and return to a life of faith in God, and let us praise Him and give Him thanks even though we cannot fully comprehend Him. We are called to live by faith, and God said that everything not of faith is sin. Let us not be the reason that the Enemy of God has a foothold in His precious Son’s Body.

Pastor John

Mid-Day Darkness

Turn on the Power

Psalms 32:1 – 2 Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.

It’s the time of year when the weather can get pretty intense. Atmospheric conditions can quickly spawn thunderstorms that can produce heavy rain, hail, strong winds, and even tornadoes. The consequences of some of these storms can be pretty severe. Even the smallest storms produce lightning that can interrupt the flow of electricity to our homes, plunging us into darkness. At times like that we realize how much we depend on that invisible power.

To compensate, we light candles or grab a flashlight and carry it with us. But light is not the only area of our lives that is affected. There’s no television, no traditional food preparation, and no heat or air conditioning. No matter how many substitutes we find for electricity, we cannot return to our normal lifestyle until the full power is restored. When it is and the lights come back on, you can almost hear a collective sigh of relief from the people affected. We can eat. We can open our garage doors again. Our air conditioning comes back on. We can go to bed in peace. We feel safe and secure again. We are thankful for the blessing of light.

When I read the first two verses of Psalm 32 today I was reminded of another time when a city was plunged into darkness. Unlike the summer thunderstorms, it was not caused by an electrical failure. It happened at three o’clock in the afternoon. In an instant in the middle of the day the world was plunged into total darkness. No, it was not an eclipse of the sun by the moon – it was an eclipse of the Son by sin. The Light of the world had been extinguished while hanging on a cross. Darkness invaded the earth. There on the spiritual power pole of eternity the Son of God had surrendered His life on behalf of mankind and there was no more light.

Sin always results in darkness. The darkness we experience in our mind, soul and spirit is the product of sin. We cannot call ourselves blessed when we are in the darkness of sin. Even though we have tried to light candles here and there in our lives and carry flashlights so we can see where we are going, we know in our hearts that we are still walking in darkness and the True Power is not on. We know that we are covering sin somewhere in our lives, and we are deceiving ourselves by thinking we are living in the light by carrying manmade lights.

Here’s what the Apostle John says about that – God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth…If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1)

Oh how we have lied to ourselves. We have convinced ourselves that as long as people don’t know the truth about who we are and what we do, the façade of light we have turned on is sufficient. But in our hearts we know that living in candlelight does not satisfy us fully, and that darkness is still pervasive. As long as we claim that the power is on while knowing that there are areas of darkness in our lives, we cannot be fully blessed and experience the fullness of the Light as God intended.

But there’s great news for us. The Power has been restored. The Light of the world was resurrected.  Darkness has been conquered once and for all, and the Power can never again go out. Darkness does not have to exist in our lives. The Apostle John goes on and says, But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

But we must understand that the only way for us to walk in the light is to stop lying about the presence of darkness. The blessing of God can only be fully experienced and appreciated by those who have no deceit in their spirit. There can be no compromise with sin. There can be no cover-up of sin. There can be no complacency towards sin. When we come to Jesus in full humility and transparency, revealing every part of our lives to Him, His blood covers it all and restores the power.


So do not fear opening your heart up to Jesus – even those long-hidden dark secrets. He has already paid for every one of them, and He wants to bless you with His total forgiveness and restore you to His fellowship in the light. After all, aren’t you tired of the dark? Isn’t it time to turn on all the power?

Pastor John

What Fortress Have You Chosen?

What Is Your Fortress of Choice?

Psalms 31:19  How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of men on those who take refuge in you.

The life of a faithful follower of Jesus will be hard. We will not be understood because our values are of a different origin than the world’s values. We will not be liked, because our mission is contrary to the world’s direction.  We will not be tolerated because our lifestyles based on God’s moral truth contradicts the self-fulfilling lifestyles of our culture. We will be persecuted, both in word and in action, because we stand for Christ whom they also persecuted. Jesus offends those who live according to the desires of the flesh, so we must expect that we who represent Jesus will also offend them.

So many of David’s Psalms are about the attacks of his enemies based on his life of faith in God. One of the questions that penetrates my soul is this – why am I not experiencing such attacks. We may think that it has to do with our culture which has traditionally accepted Christian values. But David’s country was founded on God’s principles too, and yet its citizens were the ones pursuing David. Even members of his own family sought to destroy him and overthrow the kingdom. As a result, David certainly knew what it was to seek refuge in God. David had experienced the safety of the Rock. David knew from experience that God was his fortress. And until we begin to experience the same kind of persecution, I’m not sure we really know what kind of fortress God can be.

The reason I say that is because we have become very adept in our culture of avoiding the persecution that would certainly come upon us if we truly lived out our faith in every part of our lives. Jesus said that would be the reality of living a life of faith. We have done so by discovering and choosing alternative fortresses.

  • We have invested in the fortress of finances, and we feel secure as long as we are making and hoarding money, taking pride in our possessions and calling ourselves a success.
  • We have entered the fortress of family, and even if some of them don’t believe the truth we overlook it because we value family peace more than God’s truth. Then we justify it by hoping others will notice how loving and functional our family is.
  • We have strengthened the fortress of friends, believing that so long as we are tolerant of their beliefs they will be tolerant of ours so that we can find acceptance and live at peace with our neighbors.

Then, when we feel safe in our fortresses, we take the credit for the goodness we are experiencing. We may even hypocritically give the credit to God for bestowing His goodness on us when we know in our hearts it is all of our own doing.

You may be thinking right now, “Wow! PJ is being a little harsh this morning.” Yes, I am being harsh – with me, because I realize how guilty I am of fabricating my own fortresses so I can experience goodness. If this doesn’t fit you, then move on – but it might fit you more than you are willing to admit.

Let’s compare our situation to David’s in Psalm 31. In the midst of all of his confessions to God about the trouble he was experiencing, David wants to be sure that any goodness he experiences is directly from God and not of his own making. David admits to God that he is in need of deliverance from his enemies. He wants God alone to be his rock and his fortress. He has totally surrendered the preservation and the outcome of his life to the Lord. Jesus Christ himself quotes this Psalm at the moment of His death on the cross when He says, “Into your hands I commit my spirit.” 

David admits that he has stood strong in his trust for God in the face of false worship. He confesses to the anguish of his soul, his distress, his physical weakness, his sorrow and his grief. He states that his life is consumed by the anguish that has lasted for years. He declares to God that he is the utter contempt of his neighbors and that his friends dread him. People who meet him in public turn and run from him. It’s as if the world considers him dead, and those who know he is still alive are plotting to kill him. We can all relate to portions of that. We all are experiencing some degree of what David was.

At this point we might all agree that David is not experiencing any goodness. David also is not proclaiming his ability to come up with a solution and fix it so that goodness returns. David confesses that there is no fortress of human fabrication to run to – there is no earthly rock to hind behind. David realizes there is only one option and proclaims, But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me. Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love. And after having said that, David declares this incredible truth –

How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of men on those who take refuge in you. 

Do you see? When our refuge is in God alone, He will bestow goodness on us in the sight of all men, including our enemies. When we solve our own sufferings, then in the sight of all men we are credited with self-produced goodness. When we do nothing to solve our sufferings and we accept the persecutions that come upon the faithful, then the very people who declared us weak and whipped will see the goodness and glory of God revealed in our lives.

Please think about that carefully. You might consider answering this question – “Is the goodness I am currently experiencing of my own making or is it fully the gift of God upon my life because He is my rock and my fortress?” 

Answer humbly and honestly. You want to be able to end your life the way David ends this Psalm – not as a proud person but as a faithful one. He says…

Love the LORD, all his saints! The LORD preserves the faithful, but the proud he pays back in full. Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.

Choose God as your only fortress.

Pastor John


Do the Dance of Joy

Dance for Joy (Even though life didn’t turn out the way you expected)

Psalm 30:11-12  You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

 If you have your Bible open to this Psalm right now you may notice that the heading at the beginning of the Psalm says, A Psalm of David. A song for the dedication of the temple.  King David wrote a song for an event that he would never see. David knew that he was not being allowed to build the temple in Jerusalem and that his son Solomon would have that honor. It had been David’s one main ambition in life to build the temple for the worship of God, but because of his sin and warring ways God had said no. David was heartbroken. His dreams were shattered. His life would be unfulfilled.

But David did not rebel against the will of the Lord. He did not turn away from the plan to have a temple built. He did not choose to go into a corner and pout leaving all of the work to others. In essence, he didn’t takes his toys and go home just because he wasn’t allowed to play his games his way. Instead, David made great preparations for the building of the temple so that his son Solomon would be able to get the job done quickly and efficiently. He made incredible financial contributions from his own wealth. He designed the whole building. He arranged for all of the materials that would be needed. He organized all the work crews. He even planned the music for the dedication ceremony, and Psalm 30 was the theme song.

Of all the things David could have written for the theme music, he wrote about the infinite love and faithfulness of God. He wanted the people to remember for all time that God is all about rescue, reconciliation, and restoration. No matter how severe the trial or tribulation, God will lift us out of the depths.

The temple was to be a place of worship, and the theme of the worship was to be the salvation God provides for us. This Psalm was probably written near the end of David’s life, after he had rebelled against God by numbering the people. (Read 2 Samuel 24 for more details) God punished David by bringing a pestilence against the land, and 70,000 people died. Then, just as the Angel of the Lord was about to destroy Jerusalem, God’s mercy intervened and the Angel was stopped. The city and David were spared. In response to that event, David writes this song, proclaiming the faithfulness of God to save us from our sin.

When we come into a place of worship, either in our home or in our church, we should come to exalt the Name of Jesus, who in His love and faithfulness has saved us from our sin. We should worship like David because our lives are just like his…

  • We know what it is to be in the depths of despair, and we know how to worship the One who lifts us out of them (vs. 1).
  • We know what it is like to be wounded in spirit, and we know how to worship the One who heals our spirits (vs. 2).
  • We have faced the reality of death, and we worship the One who has spared us from ever experiencing it (vs. 3).
  • We have experienced the anger of God against our sin, yet we worship the One whose anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime (vs. 5).
  • We have cried throughout the night because of the pain of earthly circumstances, yet we worship the One who brings rejoicing in the morning (vs. 5).
  • We have endured the hopelessness of life’s possibilities and in worship we dance with enthusiasm before the One who has given us eternal hope (vs. 11).
  • We have mourned over the loss of life and love on the earth, but we are moved to worship the One who restores unto us the joy of our salvation (vs. 11).
  • In all of this we worship the Lord our God and give thanks to Him forever (vs. 12).

It might be a good thing to memorize these phrases –

  • God’s favor lasts a lifetime;
  • Rejoicing comes in the morning;
  • God turns wailing into dancing;
  • God clothes me with joy;
  • I will give God thanks forever.

– then use them as the basis for your worship to God every day. If we do, I am convinced we will experience a major attitude adjustment, and it will be great to see so many doing the dance of joy!

Give Credit Where Credit Is Due

Dear Friends, there are actually two trains running through the station today. I hope you will take the time to read them both.

Give Credit Where Credit Is Due

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Psalm 29:1-2  Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.  Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness.

On September 29, 1994, the 88th episode of the NBC sitcom Seinfeld was aired. It was entitled The Big Salad. This was the plot.

At Elaine’s request, George purchases a “big salad” to go for her from Monk’s. When George asks Jerry, “What’s in the big salad?”, Jerry replies, “Big lettuce, big carrots, tomatoes like volleyballs.” But George’s girlfriend Julie appears to take credit for the purchase when she hands Elaine the salad in Jerry’s apartment. George is displeased that Elaine thanked Julie for buying the salad, and mentions to Elaine that he was responsible for the purchase. George’s revelation eventually leads to a rift between him and Julie when the truth comes out.

The truth, in George’s view, is not that Elaine thanked the wrong person, but that Julie accepted the thanks. As George loudly explains, “What I would like to know is, how does a person who has nothing to do with the Big Salad claim responsibility for that salad and accept the thank-you under false pretenses?” Julie understands perfectly well, and says, “George, all I did was hand someone a bag.” Semi-humiliated, George vows never to buy Elaine lunch again.

This comedic situation draws to attention several problems that exist in our relationships with other people.

  • Sometimes we take credit for what we didn’t do.
  • Sometimes we refuse to take credit (responsibility) for what we did.
  • Sometimes we give credit to the wrong person.
  • Sometimes we do not give credit when credit was due.

As I began my trip into the 29th Psalm this morning, I paused after the first word. I asked myself, What does ascribe mean? I discovered it means to give credit. So with that definition in mind, I read the rest of the Psalm.

Give credit to the LORD, O heavenly beings, Give credit to the LORD for his glory and strength.  Give credit to the LORD for the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness.

As I continued to read I was overwhelmed with the credit that is due His name.

  • For His clear voice that can be heard above all the noise of life. The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD, over many waters. The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty.
  • For His powerful voice that breaks the bondage of our sin. The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
  • For His redeeming voice that restores joy in the midst of the wilderness experiences of life. He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox. The voice of the LORD flashes forth flames of fire.  The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness; the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
  • For His life-giving voice. The voice of the LORD makes the deer give birth
  • For His sovereignty and glory. …and strips the forests bare, and in his temple all cry, “Glory!” The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD sits enthroned as king forever. 

We may not take credit for any of these things.

We dare not give credit for any of these things to anyone else.

We must give credit for all of this and so much more to the One and Only for whom credit is due.

Give credit to the LORD!

Seriously – do it right now – Ascribe to the LORD the glory due His name!


For Further Reading (I wrote this about Psalm 29 on March 19, 2007)

There is a huge difference between praising God and ascribing glory to God. I have been guilty of saying the words of praise without truly ascribing to God the glory due His name.

To ascribe means to give credit and hold nothing back for self.

I have watched worshipers in church sing the words of songs meaninglessly with no real attachment to their heart. I have also done that. I have heard athletes begin their post-game interviews with statements of praise to God and then immediately draw all of the attention to their own accomplishments.

I believe we are guilty of learning the techniques of giving praise with our mouths without truly engaging our hearts in the humble act of worship by ascribing all of the glory to God. It is hypocritical to say with our mouths that God gets the credit for our accomplishments yet treasure in our hearts the praise that comes from people for what we have done.


In the very first line of this Psalm, God addresses the issue of our pride in our own abilities when He challenges the mighty ones to ascribe to Him all glory and strength. God recognizes the propensity in all of us towards self-sufficiency. It’s as if while we are saying to Him, “I couldn’t have done it without you,” we believe in our hearts that “He couldn’t have done it without me.”

Does the tool ever demand glory for the work that was done? Does the hammer require praise from the Carpenter? Do the scissors demand glory from the seamstress? Does the pen ask to be acknowledged for the writer’s work? We are nothing more than the instrument of God’s grace, and instruments draw no attention to themselves. No matter how rare and valuable the Stradivarius violin, its only true value is found in the music produced on it by the Master violinist who plays it.


If we truly understood the concept of ascribing, or giving praise and glory to God, then we would never draw attention to ourselves. If we truly reflected on the condition of our hearts during times of worship, we might discover that we are not really ascribing unto God the glory due His name. We are not naturally humble people who give someone else the full credit for what we have done. We tend to minimize the need for humility in worship. We would rather worship the Lord in the splendor of the worship band than in the splendor of His holiness.

Standing in the presence of His holiness requires humility and self-denial, so we would rather stand in the presence of our peers. We would rather compare our worship to our neighbor’s and believe that ours is better and more meaningful, thus ascribing glory to ourselves. It is hypocritical to worship the Lord in song while our hearts and minds are focused on our own lives and the people around us.

What would the worship in our church look like if every worshiper was totally fixed on the glory of God and the splendor of His holiness? How would our singing be different if we were not concerned with the style of music or the way it was being performed? How much more in touch with the Spirit of God would we be if we were not so concerned about the people around us? How would the musicians behave while they performed the music if they did it in a spirit of humility in the splendor of His holiness? How would our responses to God during worship be different? Would we spend more time on our knees than on our feet? Would we lift up holy hands to the Lord more often? Would we cry more frequently as we come face to face with the awesome grace of God?


Ascribe to the LORD, O mighty ones, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.

Give all of the glory for your life to the only One who is worthy of praise – the Lord God Almighty. Hold nothing back for yourself. It is not God and you that accomplish anything – it is God alone. You are the tool – the instrument. God does all the work and plays all of the music.

Ascribe to the Lord, you who think you are mighty, all glory and strength.