Monday, August 24, 2009

Psalms of the Day

When I was at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary one of our required classes was "Spiritual Disciplines" taught by Dr. Don Whitney. I took this course in my first semester there, way back in the fall of 2001, but still remember many things from his teachings and still keep up many of the disciplines.

I'm sure anyone who has taken this class will never forget the "Psalms of the Day" reading plan. If you follow it you'll read the entire book of Psalms in one month. It goes like this: You take the day of the month (today is the 24th), and you begin by reading Psalm 24. Then you add 30 and read the next Psalm (Ps. 54). Add another 30 to read Ps. 84, then Ps. 114 and finally Ps. 144. You're reading five chapters each day. At the end of 30 days you've covered the whole book. The only exception concerns Ps. 119, which you know takes a little longer to read. You get to skip that one on the 29th, and read it instead on the 31st of the month.

To drill this plan in our heads, Dr. Whitney would make whoever was the last one into class have to tell the class what the Psalms of the Day are. You always wanted to be prepared with them on the tip of your tongue, rather than having to try to remember what day of the month it was and then doing the math on the fly as you rush into class.

But this discipline of reading through the Psalms each month has also been drilled into my heart. When you start getting into the Psalms like this, you don't want to get out. Have I kept up the discipline perfectly? No. It's more like I've gone in seasons where I'll read through a month or two at a time, then return to it a couple of months later. And often I'll find that I might end up reading just one Psalm of the Day - and as the Spirit speaks that one becomes my focus of prayer throughout the day.

I think the point is not just reading for the sake of completing the exercise or being disciplined enough to do it, but soaking in God's Word and letting the Word of God soak in me. And I have found that to be incredibly rich.

Here's the first Psalm of the Day for today, Psalm 24 (NIV):

The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it,
the world and all who live in it;
for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.
Who may ascend the hill of the Lord?
Who may stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to an idol
or swear by what is false.
He will receive blessing from the Lord
and vindication from God his Savior.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek your face, O God of Jacob.
Lift up your heads, O you gates;
be lifted up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord strong and mighty,
the Lord mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, O you gates;
lift them up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is he, this King of glory?
The Lord Almighty - he is the King of glory.

"Let the word of Christ dwell richly in you..." (Col. 3:16).

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Show Me the Works!

Maybe the question should be: “What does it mean to believe in Jesus?”

People often say they believe in Jesus, but a quick look at their behavior, their speech and their attitudes shows they really don’t know what believing in Jesus means. They’re not concerned to obey Jesus’ commands, they’re not careful with the words they use and their hearts are full of bitterness, criticism and selfishness.

That’s not what it means to believe in Jesus.

Suppose you and I were having a conversation and we both said, “I believe it’s going to rain today.” When we left I grabbed my golf clubs and headed to the links. You went out to roll up your car windows. Which of us really believes it’s going to rain?

Just because someone says he believes in Jesus doesn’t really mean that he believes in Jesus. Talk is cheap. A mental acknowledgement of the historical fact that there once lived a good man named Jesus, a man who called Himself the Son of God, who was crucified on a Roman cross and rose on the third day – what’s it worth? The Bible says that even the demons believe. So what?

Show me the works! Show me that your faith in Jesus compels you to good deeds. Show me that because you’ve been forgiven in Christ you freely forgive others who have wronged you. Show me that because the Truth is in you your lips speak the truth instead of lies. Show me that because of Christ’s love in you your love for others is evidenced by compassion and kindness. Show me that because of the new life Jesus gives you your speech is no longer unwholesome and corrupting but helpful and instructive in building others up. Show me that because of the living hope of an eternal inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading that you have been given by the mercy and grace of God you rejoice greatly in the Lord rather than fret needlessly over the temporary trials of the day.

Show me that because you’ve been born again your life is no longer marked by malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander, but by your craving for the Word of God and your hunger for holiness. Show me that because of what the Prince of Peace has done for you and how the Spirit of peace lives in you you’re filled with a peace that passes all understanding. Show me that because God is your provider you don’t worry about what the unbelieving world worries about, but you seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, knowing that all these things you need will be given to you.

Show me that you walk by faith and not by sight. Show me that you rejoice as you share in Christ’s suffering, that you count yourself blessed when others insult you for the name of Jesus, and that when you suffer as a Christian you praise God that you bear His name. Show me that because Christ died for you you’re no longer living for yourself but for the One who died for your sake and was raised. Show me your works!

Now make sure you understand that I’m not saying that we are saved by our works. You can not do one single thing to earn salvation. Jesus has done it all. But what I am saying is this: if our faith is real our salvation will result in works of righteousness as the life of Christ flows through us. The Bible says, “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). The late, great, singer-songwriter Rich Mullins said it this way: “Faith without works is like a screendoor on a submarine.” Useless, and dangerous!

To put it as simply as I know how, believing in Jesus means trusting Him and obeying Him as we let Him live His life through us. The result will be great glory to God and great gain to us. Are you believing in Jesus? If not, will you repent of your sins right now and turn in faith to Christ?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Don't Wait for the Concert

“He Is” is the song that will bring you to your feet when The Lesters take the stage at the Popcorn Days festival on Thursday, September 10. Or it might bring you to your knees in praise. I’ve heard them sing this live twice, and both times the effect has been one of those spine-tingling things that brings tears to your eyes and lifts your heart in worship before Almighty God.

You’ll also be encouraged by the message in the song, “He Didn’t Throw the Clay Away.” Encouraged may be too soft a word. The truth of God’s forgiveness in Christ as we come humbly before Him is absolutely refreshing! It’s cleansing and healing. It is blessed and joyful. It might just rekindle (or kindle for the first time) your love for the Lord that translates into a greater measure of thankfulness and trust and devotion to Him than you’ve ever known before. Here are some of the lyrics:

“Empty and broken, I came back to Him / A vessel so unworthy, so scarred by sin / But He did not despair, He started again / And I bless the day He didn’t throw the clay away…Over and over He molds me and makes me / Into His likeness He fashions the clay / A vessel of honor I am today / All because Jesus didn’t throw the clay away.”

Maybe it will just be the smile on Brian Lester’s face as he sings that will have you taking note that this man has a genuine love for the Lord. And you’ll find yourself praying, “God, give me that kind of joy! Let the song of my heart rise before You with such adoration and delight in who You are and for all that You have done!”

Listen, you don’t want to miss this special evening with The Lesters. We are very excited about bringing this Southern Gospel quartet to Ridgway, and we want to urge you to make plans to come and bring your friends and family with you. Here’s a word from Brian Lester about their music ministry as found on their web page:

“Simply put, we love music. . . and we love introducing others to Jesus Christ through our music and personal ministry. It’s a passion that began with our grandparents, Harvey and Opal Lester, in 1925. And it’s one that has endured to the third, fourth and fifth generations. In fact, this year our family is celebrating eighty-four wonderful years of sharing the Good News through Gospel music. And we’re more excited now than ever before.”

And we hope that you will be a part of this special evening on Thursday, September 10. But please, don’t wait for a concert to get your life back on track with the Lord! Don’t wait for an inspiring set of music to move your heart to worship God! Don’t wait for a testimony from someone on a stage to put your trust in Jesus!

We’re planning for a wonderful concert in four weeks, but God may have other plans before then. If you’re living in sin and rebellion against God’s ways as He’s shown us in His Word, then now is the time to confess your sins. If your love for the Lord and for others has grown stale, then now is the time to repent and return to Him wholeheartedly. If you’ve never known what having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is all about, then now is the time to believe in Him for abundant and eternal life!

Why not join us in worship this Sunday morning? No excuses. Just be here. 10:40 a.m. You will receive a glad-hearted welcome from the people of God. We will not judge you or condemn you, but love you with the love of Christ. We’ll sing songs of praise and worship to our Savior, but you don’t have to sing out loud if you don’t want to. We won’t make you sing a solo. We’ll approach our Lord in prayer. We’ll open up His Word and hear the truth of Scripture. We’ll rely on His Spirit and His power and strength and guidance to help us carry out His commands.

I know that you may be thinking, “It’s been so long since I’ve been to church, if I come the walls will fall in.” They won’t. Don’t wait any longer. It’s been too long already and you know that you need to be here. No more excuses. Jesus is worthy. “He’s the Alpha and Omega / Our God and our Savior / He is Jesus Christ the Lord / And when time is no more / He is, He is!”