Psalms 143-145 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: His grace and goodness are immeasurable, His love unfailing

“Would anyone like to share a testimony tonight of what God has done in your life this past week?”  Those of us who remember hearing this invitation from our pastor during a Wednesday or Sunday night service are probably over 50 years old.  At that invitation, church members would stand and give a testimony.  As a little girl, I enjoyed hearing testimonies of miracles, healing and provision straight from the mouths of people I knew.

Yes, sometimes Sister So and So would go on and on for quite a while and share much more than was needed, and as churches grew in size, it was difficult to hear what was being said. But the testimony service seemed to build a foundation of faith in me – God is faithful, He will not fail me, and He loves to bless His children.  Today I love when my pastor calls someone up front to share about the goodness of the Lord, and I love the testimony of David in our reading today. 

@ Psalm 145
“Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise! No one can measure his greatness… Your awe-inspiring deeds will be on every tongue; I will proclaim your greatness. Everyone will share the story of your wonderful goodness; they will sing with joy about your righteousness.” (3,6-7)  Well, it’s testimony time!  Regardless of the difficult challenges we may be facing at the moment, there is always something that will stir us to give praise and glory to our God.  Just in case we need a reminder, David supplied us today in verses 8-20 with some thoughts that should encourage our testimony of praise:

  • The Lord is merciful and compassionate,
  • Slow to get angry
  • And filled with unfailing love.
  • The Lord is good to everyone.
  • He showers compassion on all his creation.
  • All of your works will thank you, Lord,
  • And your faithful followers will praise you.
  • They will speak of the glory of your kingdom;
  • They will give examples of your power.
  • They will tell about your mighty deeds
  • And about the majesty and glory of your reign.
  • For your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom.
  • You rule throughout all generations.
  • The Lord always keeps his promises;
  • He is gracious in all he does.
  • The Lord helps the fallen
  • And lifts those bent beneath their loads.
  • The eyes of all look to you in hope;
  • You give them their food as they need it.
  • When you open your hand, you satisfy the hunger and thirst of every living thing.
  • The Lord is righteous in everything he does;
  • He is filled with kindness.
  • The Lord is close to all who call on him, yes, to all who call on him in truth.
  • He grants the desires of those who fear him;
  • Hears their cries for help and rescues them.
  • The Lord protects all those who love him, but he destroys the wicked.

Our testimony service has gone on and on, but my faith is renewed!  I am reminded that God is faithful, He will not fail me and He loves to bless His children. Our testimonies are powerful tools, building faith in us and touching the hearts of others as well, giving the power to overcome the enemy.  Revelation 12:11 gives insight to the cause of our future victory, “And they overcame [the enemy] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” (KJV)  I’m wondering, does anyone have a testimony today of what God has done in your life?  I’m certain you do. 

Moving Forward:  “My mouth shall speak the praise of the LORD: and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.” (KJV 21) 

Tomorrow @ Song of Solomon 3-4

2 Chronicles 1-5 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He is our firm foundation

It’s always troubling to watch television news reporting on the mudslides that seem to occur every year in California or similar places.  We see homes literally sliding down the hillside, sometimes into the coastal waters below.  As the furnishings and memories of a lifetime are swallowed up in mud and debris, I often wonder if the magnificent ocean views their homes afford them is worth the devastation.  There’s nothing like building on a firm foundation. 

@2 Chronicles 3
Whether building a home, a marriage, a church or a family, we want to make something that will last, something that will survive the storms of life.  David had chosen such a place for his son to build God’s temple. “So Solomon began to build the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to David, his father. The Temple was built on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, the site that David had selected.” (1)  Solomon’s Temple on Mount Moriah was built on a firm foundation, both in structure and in history, and the history is intriguing.

Mount Moriah was a place of faith:  Mount Moriah was first mentioned in Genesis 22:1-2,9-11, “Sometime later, God tested Abraham’s faith. ‘Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains’… Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar…Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’”  Is whatever we are building in our lives based on faith in God, is He the sure foundation?  As with Abraham, God may give us an opportunity to demonstrate faith during our building process to be sure that it will stand.

Mount Moriah was a place of sacrifice:  Because of David’s sin of taking a census, the hand of God was set to destroy Israel, but the angel from God halted its destruction at the threshing floor of Araunah when David repented.  This special place where God would spare His people was Mount Moriah.  David went to purchase the land, but the owner, Araunah, wanted to give it to him – David would have none of it. “No, I insist on buying it for the full price. I will not take what is yours and give it to the Lord. I will not present burnt offerings that have cost me nothing!’” (I Chronicles 21:2-4)  It will cost us something to build on a firm foundation.  Careful planning, diligence and countless hours are just a few of the sacrifices that go into building a marriage and home or anything that will last.

Mount Moriah was a place of worship:  Solomon completed the beautiful and ornate Temple for the Ark of the Covenant to dwell, the presence of God.  May all that we build be a place of worship to God, where His presence dwells.  Solomon’s Temple was constructed with careful planning and the very best quality of supplies and furnishings – it was built to last forever.  However, 400 years later it lay in ruins.

The Temple had a firm foundation – it was built on faith in God, it was a place of sacrifice to God, and it was a place of worship to God.  Should it not have lasted forever?  Although the foundation was good, the structure lost its function when the Israelites left the Temple and put their faith in other gods, sacrificed to other gods and worshiped them in others places.  They abandoned the very principles on which the Temple was built, and God allowed pagans from other countries to demolish it.

From this sad history, we learn not only to build our lives on faith in the Lord, but also to hold fast to those principles that guided us from the very beginning.  The world will forever attempt to seduce us with many other areas to place our faith, to offer our sacrifices and to bow our knee to worship, but it never ends well for us. What we build will last when we build on the Lord, our sure foundation, and we stand firm. 

Moving Forward: On Christ the Solid Rock I stand!

Tomorrow@Psalms 111-113

Psalms 108-110 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: His goodness fills us with songs of praise

We’ve all heard the old joke, “Did you wake up grumpy this morning?”  “No, I just went ahead and let him sleep.”  So often God puts together a night owl and a morning person in marriage – challenges right from the start!  We all know that chipper morning person who jumps out of bed ready to take on the day, and then we know the night owl who considers morning totally unnecessary.  Some of us are both, and we burn the candle at both ends never getting enough sleep.  I love the morning, but I really don’t want to talk about it until I’ve had at least one stiff belt of coffee.  Regardless of our mindset about morning, we can open our eyes each day with a confidence in our hearts that only God can give just like David did.

@Psalm 108
“My heart is confident in you, O God; no wonder I can sing your praises with all my heart!  Wake up, lyre and harp!  I will wake the dawn with my song.” (1-2)  In Psalm 108, David repeated these verses from Psalm 57, and I think this passage bears repeating as well.  (See May 17@Psalms 57-59)  I must admit I’ve started some days with my joy being tested.  Negative thoughts and feelings have overwhelmed me. Trying to kick-start the day is like biking uphill – it’s hard work.

David expressed the right way to start the day.  He woke up confident, not in himself but confident in the One who gave him the day, “This is the day the Lord has made.  We will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)  We certainly had nothing to do with the making of this day, and if He found it valuable enough to give it to us, then we probably should be thankful for it.  David woke up thankful, “I will thank you, Lord, among all the people.  I will sing your praises among the nation.”(3)  And he woke up praising, “For your unfailing love is higher than the heavens.  Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.  Be exalted, O God, above the highest heavens.  May your glory shine over all the earth.”(4-5)  There’s just no room for gloom or doom when we’re focused on Him.

It’s impossible to wake up grumpy when our first thoughts are on the Lord and His goodness to us, as well as taking care of our last thoughts before we fall asleep.  I often find myself singing a song I heard a few years ago, “I woke up this morning with my mind on Jesus…I saw the sunrise, and I felt the gentle breeze blow.  I woke up this morning with my mind on Jesus.” (Jordan) The best part of waking up isn’t Folgers in my cup – it’s Jesus on my mind. 

Moving Forward:  Confident, thankful, praising and with my mind on Jesus – it’s going to be a great day! 

Tomorrow @ Proverbs 23-24

I Chronicles 25-29 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He created us to enjoy intimacy with Him 

@ I Chronicles 28
“And Solomon, my son, learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately. Worship and serve him with your whole heart and a willing mind.” (9)  David was rounding the final bend of his life when he gave these wonderful principles to help guide his son.  Even though his life had some rough moments, David was qualified to give this exhortation because we know from reading the Psalms of his intimacy with God.

When I read them, I think of my mom expressing these words to me, “And Phyllis, my daughter, learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately…” because she, like David, enjoyed an intimate relationship with God.  As a young girl, it took me quite a while to grasp what David was expressing to his son.

Many years ago I listened to a group of women discuss the challenges of keeping a fresh daily relationship going with the Lord while raising children, working and traveling, and I understood the struggle all too well.  There are days when it’s difficult to even get a brush through our hair, much less spend some devotional time with the Lord.  The consensus in that meeting was that God understands if we put our relationship with Him on hold for a few years until we have more time.  I don’t think so.

The truth is that God loves us no matter what, literally to the point of death, but I don’t think He understands being put on hold until we can make some time for Him.  Somehow in our busyness we have lost our purpose if we think He isn’t going to miss us, and just as David was reminding his son of life’s priorities, we need reminders on our journey as well.

The message is clear from Genesis to Revelation—God created mankind with much more in mind than providing a caretaker for His garden.  We were created for Him to lavish His abundant love on us through an intimate relationship.  Made in His image, our desire for loving relationships in our lives reflects His desire for loving relationships, and He has chosen us!  Our purpose for being is not the roles we enjoy as husband or wife, father or mother, etc.  No, God has given us breath today for intimacy with Him, and everything else, while worthy and fulfilling, is secondary.

I wish I could say that I’m the poster child for intimacy with God, but unfortunately, that would not be true.  In recent years, however, I’ve changed my priorities each day.  Sleep is less important to me if I need to get up earlier to spend time with Him. In fact, I desire to put everything else on hold instead of Him.  I’ve learned that the day goes better when I first fulfill my purpose for breathing.

 I’ve learned that He doesn’t require marathon devotions every day.  He just wants to touch me and be touched, to love me and be loved.  Just like every other relationship, this requires time and care that sometimes may last for only a few minutes or sometimes for much longer. I’ve learned that the more intimate we become with Him, the more there is to learn about Him, and I’ve barely scratched the surface. 

Moving Forward: I’m thankful for the reminder from David to continue to know my God intimately.  God is my first priority today. 

Tomorrow @ Psalm 108-110

Psalms 105-107 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He will never abandon us and waits for our return when we are lost

I worked part-time at a fine jewelry store in the mall while in high school.  I learned all about diamonds and precious gems, and my little teenage heart went pitter patter whenever a couple came in to select an engagement ring.  One Friday evening the store manager asked me to deliver an expensive wedding ring on my way home after work.  It seems a couple needed it for their Saturday morning wedding.  I was happy to do so but concerned because I was unfamiliar with the area where their home was located.

Sure enough, I got lost and found myself in the seedier part of town. Sixteen-year-old girl, no cell phone back in the dark ages, $3,000 ring, nighttime and on the wrong side of the tracks – not a good scenario. I did what I only knew to do. I prayed for God to help me find my way, and He did.

Searching for landmarks I had passed, I retraced my path back to my store, the one place I knew with certainty had not moved.  I studied my directions, discovered the error of my ways and safely delivered the ring to the beaming bridegroom who was waiting for me at the door.  I was relieved and thankful that I hadn’t given up in my search, and most grateful for God’s help.  David knew something about searching with tenacity and never giving up. 

@ Psalm 105
Search for the Lord and for his strength; continually seek him.” (4)  If we find ourselves in the position of needing to search for the Lord, it could only be because we have become lost.  I mean, it’s not as though His address has changed over the last billion or so years. His address has never changed.  “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you,’” (Hebrews 13:5, NKJV) so obviously, we are the culprits.  Sometimes we think we know a better way to go or have someone or something else we would rather follow.  Not good.

David definitely understood walking away from the Lord in a moment of defeat, but he also knew the best recourse was to run back to the Lord in repentance.  We don’t need to stay lost!  David encouraged us in this Psalm to search for Him, find our way back to Him and receive His strength to remain there.  And we can do this with confidence because Jesus also promised, “Everyone who seeks, finds.” (Matthew 7:8)

When we’re traveling and realize we’re lost, we usually look for landmarks – something familiar to us to guide us back to where we belong, and David had that covered too.  “Remember the wonders he has performed, his miracles, and the rulings he has given.” (5)  When we remember where we have been with the Lord and where His presence has touched our lives, we will find Him once again.  Sometimes it requires going back to the very beginning where our journey started with Him to realize how faithfully He has led us throughout life.

God’s Word will draw us to Him as well as our communion with Him in prayer – definite landmarks for us.  And we will also find Him in the place where the impossible becomes possible and where the unknown becomes known because He loves to reveal Himself in this way.

When we are lost or in unfamiliar territory where God seems so very far away, we should “Continually seek Him,” (4) and not be discouraged.  He hasn’t moved, left the country or abandoned us.  He rewards our efforts to find Him because He loves us so. “Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that God exists and that He rewards those who sincerely seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)   Found! 

Moving Forward: I’m so thankful today for our faithful God who never leaves us and longs for us to return to Him when we are lost. 

Tomorrow @ Proverbs 22

I Chronicles 20-24 (NLT) 

Discover His Heart:  He desires our complete trust in Him

“He’d fly through the air with the greatest of ease, that daring young man on the flying trapeze…” (G. Leybourne)  When I was a young child, the Shrine Circus came to the Minneapolis auditorium every year, and it was a really big deal for me.  Clowns and jugglers, elephants and tigers filled our eyes with excitement and courageous acts, but none of these were as death-defying as those daring young men and women on the flying trapeze.  The flyers that impressed me the most were those few who worked without a net, soaring high above the crowd and trusting only in skill and precision.  I’m fairly certain that I held my breath throughout the performance.  What trust!  In our reading today, David learned a painful lesson about trusting God and flying without a net. 

@ 1 Chronicles 21
“Satan rose up against Israel and caused David to take a census of the people of Israel. So David said to Joab…‘Take a census of all the people of Israel…and bring me a report so I may know how many there are.’ But Joab replied…‘Why, my lord the king, do you want to do this? Are they not all your servants?  Why must you cause Israel to sin?’ But the king insisted that they take the census.” (1-4)

What was so evil about taking a census?  After all, Moses numbered the people.  The census in Numbers 1 was not offensive to God because its purpose was to inform Moses of the size of his army, but the purpose for the census that David requested was for him to take pride and put trust in the size of his army.  It seems to be human nature to trust God when He is all we have; but when His goodness produces armies, wealth and fame or just about anything meaningful to us, they often become the object of our trust.  Obviously, this doesn’t please the Lord.  “God was very displeased with the census, and He punished Israel for it.” (7)

One of the many problems with trusting in our nets is that when the net is taken away – the job is lost, the relationship ends or the home is gone – where, then, do we place our trust?  The army was not David’s assurance of victory, God was His victory.  For someone who took down a giant with a stone and a slingshot, this was definitely a detour.  David was a great warrior, but he was human just like us, always looking for that safety net.  Fortunately, David knew how to respond to God’s displeasure.

“Then David said to God, ‘I have sinned greatly by taking this census. Please forgive my guilt for doing this foolish thing…I am the one who called for the census! I am the one who has sinned and done wrong!’” (8,17)  It was a repentant heart that took David from his numerous failures and sins to soar as the leader that God loved most.  So sincere he was in his remorse that he would not offer his sacrifice of repentance on an altar that did not cost him something.

David replied to a generous offer from Araunah, “No, I insist on buying it for the full price. I will not take what is yours and give it to the Lord. I will not present burnt offerings that have cost me nothing!” (24)  When we give to God something that belongs to someone else, it’s really not a gift from us.  It’s a gift from someone else. There was a cost involved because of David’s disobedience, but God stopped the punishment from the angel’s sword when David repented. I don’t want anyone to suffer because of my lack of trust in God, but if I fail, I know how to respond.

When Satan comes around and tempts us to place our trust and security in a paycheck or a relationship or anything temporal, our best response is to put our trust in the Source rather than in the provision. In our trusting, like the daring young man with the greatest of ease, we will keep flying without a net. 

Moving Forward:  Trusting the One who keeps me soaring today. 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 105-107

I Chronicles 15-19 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: His response to our request is always what is best for us

No one likes being told “No, you can’t have that” or “No, you can’t do that,” etc.  I’ve been told that when I was really young, I wasn’t a child who whined or sobbed when told no.  I was a pouter.  Ugh.  That lower lip would fall to the floor, and, you know, it’s very difficult to smile when one’s lip is on the ground.  However, my mom had a way of putting a smile on my face even in my moments of disappointment.  She would look at me and say, “I’ll smile if you’ll smile,” and then she would give me a hopeful little smile.  Sometimes it took more than one smile on her part, but eventually, I couldn’t help but smile and laugh.  In our reading today, David heard no from God but praised Him anyway. 

@ I Chronicles 17
David had a brilliant idea.  He wanted to build a beautiful temple for the Lord.  I’m sure his hopes of accomplishing this were high when the prophet Nathan said to go for it. (2)  However, Nathan returned to David after hearing from the Lord with a definite no to David’s idea.  We love it when God says yes to us, or we submit to His wait, but when He says no, we are wise to accept His will as well.

Because God is so very gracious even when He answers with a negative response, He threw in His own version of I’ll smile if you smile at David. “I will raise up one of your descendants, one of your sons, and I will make his kingdom strong. He is the one who will build a house—a temple—for me. And I will secure his throne forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. I will never take my favor from him as I took it from the one who ruled before you. I will confirm him as king over my house and my kingdom for all time, and his throne will be secure forever.” (11-14)  Now a proclamation like that would put a smile on any father’s face.  Even though many of David’s descendants failed in their love for God, a descendant was coming to redeem the world, Christ Jesus, and His throne will be secure forever.

Even in the face of disappointment, David was immediately humbled by God’s smile in the midst of a no.  “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? And now, O God, in addition to everything else, you speak of giving your servant a lasting dynasty! You speak as though I were someone very great, O Lord God!…O Lord, there is no one like you. We have never even heard of another God like you!”(16-17,20)  David’s response to God is filled with praise and worship – a big smile for God!

Sometimes God’s answer to our prayer is no, and we may be tempted to whine, cry or pout.  A much better response is to follow David’s example and believe that God knows what is best and has a better plan, whether He expresses that plan at the time or not.  The very thought that my God loves me and is concerned enough about my welfare to say no at times humbles me to my knees.  I cry, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?”  And that makes me smile!

Moving Forward: Throughout my prayers today, I will smile with confidence because I know He has my best interests at heart. 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 102-104