A Stark Contrast

A Sanctuary of Peace in a World of Hostility

Like me, are you sick and tired of having to endure a culture God never intended for mankind—a world of deceit and hostility? One day, sooner than we think, the Son of God will break through the clouds and call the people of God to their eternal home where truth and peace are as close as the air we breathe. What a day! But in the meantime, God has given us a place to which we can run and find truth and peace—the sanctuary of our church. What a place!


Read: Psalm 120 // Focus: Psalm 120:6-7

“I am tired of living among people who hate peace. I search for peace; but when I speak of peace, they want war!”

Perhaps you scratched your head when you read this psalm, as I did, unable to pull out much application from it other than the psalmist’s upset with the deceitful, hateful people he was forced to endure. But digging into the title of the psalm sheds some much needed light on the rest of it.

This is what is called a psalm of assent. There were fifteen of them, and they were songs to be sung by pilgrims on their way up to Jerusalem (the city had a relatively high elevation for the Promised Land, sitting at 2,700 feet above see level). These psalms were written in a time when Israel had only one central location for corporate worship—the sanctuary of the tabernacle/temple in Jerusalem—and they were required to go there three times each year for one of the religious festivals proscribed in the law of Moses.

As they made their journey, they were to worship—not a bad idea for you and me as we make our way to weekly worship at our church. In this particular psalm of assent, these pilgrims had to make a long journey since they lived in Meshech, way to the north in Asia Minor, and Kedar, which was in Ishmaelite territory in Arabia. (Psalm 120:5) Both places were known for violence, and in each godless location deceit (Psalm 120:2-3) was an acceptable way of life.

So now we see how this psalm of assent is a little more applicable to our lives. We, too, live in a culture that stands in stark contrast to the culture of God. Hostility and deceit are simply a way of life, even if you don’t live all that far from the church where you worship. That godless culture forces its way into your life every day through the television, radio, or through your computer, and of course, through the people with whom you must interact. And like me, you are probably sick and tired of having to endure a culture God never intended for mankind.

One day, we will no longer have to endure such hostility and dishonesty. One day, perhaps sooner than we think, the Son of God will break through the clouds and call the people of God to their eternal home where truth and peace are as close as the air we will breathe. And what a day that will be!

But in the meantime, God has given us a place to which we can run and find truth and peace—the sanctuary of our church. There God’s Truth is proclaimed, and there through our worship, the peace of God transcends the chaos from without and guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7) And best of all, you aren’t limited to three times a year, you can go at least once each weekend to get your defense shields recharged as you gather with the rest of God’s children to offer your worship and receive his grace.

Now that the psalmist has reminded you of this stark contrast between culture and church, perhaps you ought to sing a song of assent on your way to worship this coming weekend.

Making Life Work: On your way to worship this week, worship. And when you get there, allow the Holy Spirit to baptize you in his strength and peace—you’re going to need it for the next seven days.

Your Divine Guidance System

How Never To Get Lost, Confused Or Distracted

Someone once quipped that the Bible is simple our Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. That’s true. And that’s why, today and every day, you should stand upon the Word of God, the B. I. B. L. E.


Read: Psalm 119 // Focus: Psalm 119:24>
“Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors.”

As you read through all 174 verses of Psalm 119—the longest chapter in the Bible—you will notice the repetition of the phrase, “according to”. In fact, it is found twenty times—once every eight or nine verses. Obviously, it is an important phrase to the writer, since he repeats it so often.

But what is of particular import is that the phrase is describing the one whose life is lived “according to” the Word of God. And to the one who so orders their life, the rest of the psalm is mostly a detail of the various benefits that follow. And of all those wonderful benefits, perhaps the greatest is that these holy statutes serve as a personal counselor—a Divine Guidance System, if you will.

What a comfort! The counsel that comes to us when we live “according to” God’s Word lifts us far above our limited, shortsighted, earth-bound perspective and provides a heavenly view of life as we journey through it. The Word of God becomes, as Timothy Dwight described, “a window in this prison-world through which we may look into eternity.” It is, as Henry Ward Beecher wrote, “God’s chart for you to steer by, to keep you from the bottom of the sea, and to show you where the harbour is, and how to reach it without running on rocks and bars.”

That’s why we must invest the first and best part of our day (Psalm 119:147) to reading, studying, meditating and applying God’s Word. Psalm 119:130 reminds us that “the unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.” As you can see, not to give full devotion and highest place to the Word of the Lord would be nothing less than foolish.

If you have chosen to read God’s Word each day, whether through this blog or in some other form, I congratulate you. There is no better investment. Psalm 119:89 says the Word of the Lord is eternal—nothing else in this world can lay claim to that distinction—so while all else around you is being shaken, because you have delighted in his laws, you won’t be!

As Psalm 119:165 promises, “Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.” That’s what you get when you follow your Divine Guidance System.

Making Life Work: Open your Bible today and read! Meditate on it, Memorize it. Master it. Minister it. Hands down, it is the very best thing you can do today.

The Central Point

In The Exact Middle Of God's Word You'll Find The Exact Center of God's Will

Want to find God’s will for you? Go to the very center of the Bible—literally! 594 chapters from either the front or the back will bring you to Psalm 118:8, and there you’ll find the best advice ever: Go with God! Don’t put your hopes in a politician (for sure, not in this election) or a celebrity or a sports star or anyone else for that matter. God alone is eternal and dependable and perfect in all his ways!


Read: Psalm 118 // Focus: Psalm 118:8

“It is better to take refuge in the LORD tan to trust in man.”

This isn’t original with me, but I thought you might find it interesting nonetheless:

The shortest chapter in the Bible is the previous reading—Psalms 117. The longest chapter in the Bible is the one to follow—Psalm 119. Today’s chapter, Psalm 118, is the literal center of the Bible.

There are 594 chapters before Psalms 118 and there are 594 chapters after Psalms 118. If you add these numbers up you get 1188.

What is the center verse in the Bible? None other than Psalms 118:8,

Far better to take refuge in God than trust in people; Far better to take refuge in God than trust in celebrities. (The Message)

Does this verse say something significant about God’s perfect will? Obviously, it does! So the next time someone says they would like to find God’s plan for their life and that they want to be in the center of His will, just send them to the exact middle of His Word, and there they can read the central point of God’s purpose for mankind:

It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man. (NKJV)

Now isn’t it odd how this worked out, or was God at the center of it?

Making Life Work: Write out Psalm 118:8 from your favorite version. Post it where you can see it throughout the day for one week. Memorize it, meditate on it, pray it, share it, thank God for it and most of all, live it!

God in a Nutshell: Love and Faithfulness

You Are Eternally And Unconditionally Loved!

There is nothing you can do to make God love you more! There is nothing you can do to make God love you less. God loves you! And when you truly “get that”, your life will be radically and eternally transformed—for the better.


Read: Psalm 117 // Focus: Psalm 117:1-2

“Praise the LORD, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD.”

They say that dynamite comes in small packages, and so does one of the most powerful truths in all of Scripture. Psalm 117 is the shortest chapter in the Bible, but how profound these two verses are. The entire message that God has graciously communicated to mankind through his Word be summed up right here: God’s love toward us is great, and his faithfulness is unending.

Love and faithfulness—that is our God in a nutshell. He loves us unconditionally. We did nothing to deserve or earn his love. In fact, we have gone out of our way to repulse his love for us. (Romans 5:8) Yet he has stubbornly persisted in loving us.

And what can diminish his love for us? Nothing—not even our best efforts to drive him away. (Romans 8:38-39) He is faithful morning after morning, with each new day, to extend mercy, cover us with grace, shower us with goodness and embrace us with everlasting love. His love endures forever.

No wonder the authors of these psalms would often exclaim after writing of God’s great love and enduring faithfulness, “Praise the Lord!” What else is there to say.

Why don’t you join me today—at this very moment, wherever you are—and give a heartfelt “praise the Lord” shout-out to our loving and faithful God!

Praise the Lord!

Making Life Work: I dare you: watch this video and see if your day doesn’t get suddenly better. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V2mn86HdQFY&feature=related

A Near Death Experience

The Sacred Lesson of Learning What is First and Foremost in Life

A near death experience – avoiding a devastating accident, escaping a crushing spiritual blow, overcoming a life-threatening illness – leads us to the overriding conclusion of what is most important in life: the extension of God’s mercy to us and our response of love to the Lord. That is a sacred lesson no one wants to learn, but afterwards are glad they did!


Read: Psalm 116 // Focus: Psalm 116:1

“I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy.”

There’s nothing like coming face to face with death to bring clarity to what is most important in life. The psalmist had either come through a literal near death experience, or he had gone through something spiritually that was so intensely difficult that death would have been a welcomed option. Whatever the reason for this deeply personal psalm, staring the grim reaper in the eye led the writer to this bottom line: I love the Lord!

I don’t wish a near death experience for you, me or anyone, but I do pray that we would come to the same overriding conclusion of what is first and foremost in life: The extension of God’s mercy to us and our response of love to the Lord. Tell me, what else in life is more important than that?

Now I understand, as do you, that love is a term used rather loosely in our world. We love our favorite food or football team, or a certain TV show, or a song or a celebrity—we even love our pets (dogs I can understand; cats I can’t). And when we are teenagers, we love our best friends one day and hate them the next. Love is a pretty squishy thing in our culture.

But when a near death experience peels all the false “likes” and faux “loves” back from the core of what love truly is, we find a response of love for God that expresses itself in very real terms and quite practical actions. The psalmist mentions several:

• Prayerful dependence on the Lord in daily life: “Death stared me in the face—I was frightened and sad. Then I cried, ‘Lord, save me!’” (Psalm 116:3-4, LB)

• Calm assurance in the face of death: “His loved ones are very precious to him, and he does not lightly let them die.” (Psalm 116:15, LB)

• Heartfelt gratitude for God’s goodness: “O Lord, you have freed me from my bonds, and I will serve you forever. I will worship you and offer you a sacrifice of thanksgiving.” (Psalm 116:16-17, LB)

• Ruthless follow through of our vows to obey God’s law: “Here in the courts of the Temple in Jerusalem, before all the people, I will pay everything I vowed to the Lord.” (Psalm 116:18, LB)

• Vocal, even visible and thoroughly authentic demonstrations of public praise for the God we claim to love: “Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 116:19).

Do you love the Lord? I do! How about we not just say it, but show it today in one of those practical ways. After all, in his mercy he has saved us from a great deal of bad stuff in life: “Then I called on the name of the Lord: ‘Please, Lord, save me!’… He has saved me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.” (Psalm 116:4,8) More than that, he has saved me from even worse stuff after death: “The Lord cares deeply when his loved ones die.” (Psalm 116:15).

Wow! Now that I think about it, I really do love the Lord!

Making Life Work: Psalm 116:2 says, “Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!” God is bending down to listen to you pray right now. Why don’t you give it a shot. Call out to him and tell him what’s troubling you. He’s ready to hear—and act! And don’t forget to thank him as an act of faith and trust.

Certain Doom Of American Idol

Human Beings Aren't Made To Be Worshipped

Every idol—those made of stone, and those made of flesh and blood—will come to certain doom. So will those who have created them and so will those who elevate them to places of adoration in their lives.


Read: Psalm 115 // Focus: Psalm 115:8

“Those who make idols will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.”

Finally, it’s dead. RIP! American Idol—the wildly popular television talent show finally went the way of all the earth. It died, to the dismay of dozens of millions of Americans who glued their eyes each week to the television to watch wannabe idols and text their vote for the latest greatest singing sensation to hit the airwaves. Think about the shows premise: one lucky dude who was just as un-famous and you and me only a few weeks prior to the show would hit instantaneous stardom—and he or he became the next American Idol.

By the way, I enjoyed the show, so my purpose is not to trash it—although shows like American Idol remind us that far too many people are way out of balance in their adoration of anything celebrity. But I do think we have an idol problem in our culture today. Just like the people to whom the psalmist referred, we, too, have our idols, and we would be wise to take note of his warning that not only will these idols come to certain doom, but so will those who have created them, and so will those who elevate them to places of importance in their lives.

Of course, we don’t worship literal images made of wood, stone, silver or gold like the ancients did, but wouldn’t you agree that we are just as susceptible to the seduction of less visible but highly sophisticated idols like wealth, celebrity, power and pleasure? Don’t you agree that the love money, the pursuit of fame—or at least the homage we pay to those who have attained it—the jockeying for top position and the relentless indulgence of self stand between many and their full and singular devotion to God?

Perhaps, in all honesty, you would have to admit that this includes you. Maybe you sometimes struggle with hanging on to “your” money when you really ought to be investing it in God’s work. Perhaps you wrestle with the desire to be known and admired for what you have done when you should really be offering acts of selfless, anonymous servanthood. It could be that there are times when it is difficult for you to put the things of God ahead of your own plans for pleasure and entertainment.

If you are placing importance, expending energy and make personal investment in things that drown out your full-throttled devotion to God, you have made them into an idol. But here’s the deal: at the end of the day, those things will have amounted to nothing. They cannot speak, see, hear, smell, feel, act or offer anything that benefits your preparation for eternity. (Psalm 115:5-7) The wealth, power, pleasure and fame they may produce in this life will crumble on that day when all creation stands before Almighty God—and so will all who have worshipped them ahead of God.

Don’t give your worship to another. It belongs to God alone. Worship God and he will be your protection (Psalm 115:9-11), your provision ((Psalm 115:12-13), your prosperity (Psalm 115:14-15) and your peace (Psalm 115:16-18).

No idol will do that for you—American or otherwise. Only God can, and only he is worthy of your worship.

Making Life Work: Psalm 115: 16 reminds us, “The highest heavens belong to the Lord, but the earth he has given to mankind.” Take a moment to recognize and thank the Creator for allowing you to enjoy what he has made.*

Earth Worship

Common Sense Stewardship Over A One Of A Kind Planet

We are the earth’s stewards, not its Savior, and while this planet is our home, don’t confuse it with our heaven. We are simply to watch over the created cosmos, being careful not to cross over the thin line that exists between watching and worshiping.

Wise Stewardship of Planet Earth

Read: Psalm 114 // Focus: Psalm 114:3-4, 7-8

“The sea looked and fled, the Jordan turned back; the mountains skipped like rams, the hills like lambs … Tremble, earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob, who turned the rock into a pool, the hard rock into springs of water.

There is a lot of earth worship going on these days. If you don’t know what I am talking about, pay a little more attention to what is happening in the environmental movement. In my view, a radical form of environmentalism that is tantamount to idolatry has replaced common sense stewardship of the earth. Earth worship, to be precise—the worship of creation over the Creator.

Think about it: Blind loyalty, if not fawning love, is offered to the cosmos, monetary offerings are given to uphold its cause, the words of its high priests are revered without challenge, its message is spread by aggressive followers with the fervor of door-to-door evangelists, and those who don’t readily accept the message are mocked and marginalized.

Sounds like a religion to me!  The Apostle Paul spoke about this in Romans 1:25, “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.”

Now don’t get me wrong, I love the earth. I think God brought his ‘A game’ when he created this planet. But don’t miss the point: Like everything else, it was created. And we, as the highest order of God’s creation, were given the assignment to manage the rest of creation on God’s behalf—and that includes lovingly and wisely caring for Planet Earth. But we are the earth’s stewards, not its Savior, and while this planet is our home, don’t confuse it with our heaven. We are simply to watch over the created cosmos, being careful not to cross over the thin line that exists between watching and worshiping.

Grasping this is so important, you see, because the earth actually worships its Creator. (See Romans 8:19-21) That’s what this psalm is about. And though God has put the systems in place that run the physical world day in and day out, season by season, eon after eon, every once in a while he breaks back into it and commands the cosmos to fulfill extraordinary things for his purposes. Those extraordinary acts are, in reality, nothing more than the release of pent up praise the creation longs to give its Creator. In other words, during those extraordinary moments of earth-shattering activity, the planet is praising.

And yet, when the earth simply goes about doing what the earth does—rising and resting with each twenty-four hour period, moving seamlessly from one season to the next—it too, in those ordinary moments, is offering praise to the One who created it and by his mighty power, sustains it. Moment-by-moment, day-by-day, year-by-year, the earth is worshiping.

The creation worships its Creator. What an awesome thing to consider. What an amazing thing to behold. I don’t want to get caught up worshiping something that worships Someone else. Do you? I want to give my worship to the Creator, and as I care for his creation, even then, I am offering him his rightful worship.

Earth worship! Sure go ahead. Join the earth in worship of its Creator.

Making Life Work: Get out your hymnal (that’s a song book we used to use in church) or Google the hymn, Praise To The Lord The Almighty, and sing it back in worship to your Creator.