Recipe For Success

Psalm 141:1 “Lord, I cry out to You; make haste to me! Give ear to my voice when I cry out to You.”

Psalm 141:2 “Let my prayer be set before You as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.”

Psalm 141:8 “But my eyes are upon You, O God the Lord; in You I take refuge; do not leave my soul destitute.”

Without giving the details of the particular trial he is facing, David writes a recipe for success when overcome with opposition. The recipe includes three key ingredients.

First, he speaks of crying out to the Lord. Obviously, David is referring to prayer, but by using the term ‘cry’, he is drawing a picture of those times when we are driven to intense prayer. It is the cry of desperation, birthed from a realization that our hope rests in God alone.

Second, he reminds us of the way God feels about prayer. To Him it is like sweet incense filling the heavenlies. God delights in the prayers of His people, because of the benefits prayer brings to the crying heart. James reminds us that we often lack, only because we have not asked (James 4:2 b). Jesus told us that we should ask with persistence. Adding, asking diligently, seeking and knocking until the Lord provides the remedy (Luke 11:8).

Finally, the third ingredient in his recipe for success, is having our eyes looking upward to the Lord. Since the eyes are the primary way information gets into our minds, where we look will have a heavy impact upon what we pursue. When our eyes are fixed upon the Lord, we will find that our thoughts follow. Soon the fear, anxiety and hopelessness, is replaced with a confident assurance that God is on His throne, and will run to the aid of His children. Hebrews 12:2 advises us to be, “. . . looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith, . . . .”

The recipe David wrote is one that has been used by God’s people down through the ages. Countless men and women have faced difficulties that could have been their end, only to find, after seeking the Lord, they were delivered.

2 Chronicles 20 tells the story of one such occasion. The people of God were under attack from the combined forces of Syria, Ammon, and other unnamed enemies. They were greatly outnumbered, and defeat was certain; until King Jehoshaphat resorted to David’s recipe for success. Instead of gathering the generals in the board room to discuss strategy, he called the people together to seek the Lord. As a nation, they began to fast, pray, and call upon the Lord. People congregated from all over the nation to seek God. We read that Jehoshaphat cried out to the Lord, “O our God, will You not judge them? For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.” (2 Chronicles 20:12) What a statement and what a statesman! Rather than standing before the people, pretending his party had developed a remedy for the national crisis, he confidently pronounced, that while he was without a solution, they would fix their eyes upon the Lord; knowing that He alone could deliver them. God responds to his cry with one of the sweetest promises found in Scripture, 2 Chronicles 20:17, “You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.”

Once the people turned their eyes to the Lord and began to cry out to Him, their victory was certain. It was only a matter of time; the enemies turned on one another, and Judah was saved. What battle are you facing today? The secret of your success will be found when you remember the great value of prayer. Fix your gaze upon Jesus, and cry out to Him. You may not know what else to do, but keep your eyes upon the Lord, for He will deliver you.

Pastor Jim

Questions for Psalm 141

  1. What is prayer illustrated as in verse 2?
  2. Do you need to pray verse 3 today?
  3. Verse 5 is essentially a prayer to be open to rebuke from his believing friends. Are you open to being corrected? Take a moment to pray for a softened heart.
  4. Verse 9 mentions snares. What are some of the pitfalls that you are accustom to falling into and need to avoid today?

Old Testament:
2 Chronicles 15- It’s That Simple
2 Chronicles 16- Warning Label
Psalm 142- Complaint Department

Searchlight

Psalm 139:23-24
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.”

In this portion of the Psalm, David prays three things: search me, try me and lead me. These are very interesting requests in light of what he has previously declared concerning God.

Lord, You have searched me and known me.” Psalm 139:1

In beautiful, poetic fashion, David declared there is nothing hidden from the all-seeing eye of God. He knows when we rise up and when we lie down. He knows our thoughts before we think them, and every word that leaves our lips. He knows the paths we choose to walk and where those roads will lead us. Our loving God thinks about us constantly, and no matter where we go, we cannot escape His peering gaze. The question that requires our attention is, if David knew that God has already searched him and known him, why pray “Search me…” ?

It seems to me, since David knew that God could see through all his disguises, he was actually removing the masks and allowing God to reveal what he was really like. He is asking God to reveal to him the things God knows are wrong with him, and to provide the divine help necessary to change. To use a modern phrase, our lives need to be an open book. Not only open, allowing the Lord to examine our hearts (after all, He sees all whether we try to hide it or not), but an open book, allowing the Lord to write upon the tablets of our hearts.

Have you laid open your whole life to the Lord and asked Him to examine you, and bring about the change that He desires? Take for example your private life, those moments when no one else is around; allow God to orchestrate what they should look like, and what needs to be removed. Or perhaps, your family life. All too often, we parent the way we were parented, rather than looking into the Word, at the example of our Heavenly Father, and seeking to have Him as our model. We must come to the place where, like David, we lay open our lives before the Lord, and allow Him to examine us with His loving gaze. When we do, we will find that His Word has much to say regarding our private life, family life, social life, and even our church life. Charles Spurgeon put it like this, “Like a Pharos, this holy song casts a clear light even to the uttermost parts of the sea, and warns us against that practical atheism which ignores the presence of God, and so makes shipwreck of the soul.”

A true believer is willing to be tried by God.

Pastor Jim

Questions for Psalm 139

  1. This psalm is absolutely amazing! The psalmist starts off with “O Lord you have searched me and known me.” Did you know there is nothing you can hide from God?
  2. Meditate for a moment on the detail described in these verses about how God knows you. How He knows about where you go and what you do?
  3. Verse 6, isn’t it great to know that God knows more than we do?
  4. Verse 14, what does God think about who you are? Verse 16 says He saw you being yet unformed. He knew you before you existed!
  5. Finally, the psalmist is laying everything out before the Lord, total surrender. God knows everything there is to know about you. TRUST HIM! He will change your life, your heart and your mind. Allow Him to be you’re all in all!

Old Testament:
2 Chronicles 13- Storms Of Life
2 Chronicles 14- Facing Giants
Psalm 140- Cover My Head

Praise Him

Psalm 138:1|
“I will praise You with my whole heart; Before the gods I will sing praises to You.”

David paints a picture that is familiar to all of us. He is surrounded by those who are not following Jehovah, and are feverishly pursuing other things. The false gods of the heathen nations represented the pursuits of the flesh. They had gods of sexual passion, pride, possessions, power, intellect and more. David found himself surrounded by those who rejected God, pursued the flesh, and looked down upon him as he looked up to the Lord.

Sadly, it was not just the surrounding nations who thought David a fool for committing himself to Jehovah. Idolatry was rampant within the nation of Israel. Many of the people had developed their theology based upon experience and personal desire, instead of on the revelation of God.

David goes on in this psalm to declare, “You have magnified Your word above all Your name.” Psalm 138:2

The word of God is magnified because of its value. It is His word which creates, sustains, quickens, enlightens, and comforts. However, the greatest value of the Word is what it reveals. It is through the Word of God that we see the true and living God. What we know about Him is revealed in the pages of His Word. His Word declares His love and care of His children.

When our hearts condemn us, His merciful, loving-kindness provides forgiveness and restoration. When fear grips us from within, His Word screams of His power, protection, and provision. Our fear can be replaced with an all consuming peace, because of the promises of God. When confusion clouds our thoughts and makes the way of the wicked seem appealing, it is His Word that reveals the end of the road, and the reward that awaits the faithful child of God.

You may be surrounded by those who seem to have no interest in the things of God. They may even treat you as a fool for putting your trust in Him, and mock you for living His way. Note what David goes on to say, “All the kings of the earth shall praise You, O LORD, When they hear the words of Your mouth.” Psalm 138:4

Certainly, there is a day coming when, “every knee will bow . . . and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of the Father” Philippians 2:10-11.

But there is another day coming, even sooner. It is the day when you will see many of those around you turn, and surrender their hearts to Jesus. Some of your family members, coworkers, and friends will one day, turn to Christ because of the work He has done in you. In the midst of all the confusion, do not lose heart.

Paul declared, “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” Galatians 6:9

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Psalm 137- Weeping
2 Chronicles 11- When God Speaks
2 Chronicles 12- You Have Forsaken Me

Never Ending Mercy

Psalm 136:1
“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.”

It has been suggested by many, this psalm was sung by the worship leaders of Israel, with the congregation serving as the choir. The Levites would sing a verse and the people would respond, “For His mercy endures forever.” Imagine thousands of travelers finally arriving in Jerusalem, for one of the great feasts, and the skilled musicians begin to play this psalm. The vocalists join in singing, “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good”, and suddenly an explosion of voices, like the sound of rushing waters, burst forth, “For His mercy endures forever.”

Verse after verse the band leads, and the choir responds, ever being reminded of the mercy of God. I imagine throughout the week you would hear the people whistling, humming and singing this song. The main point of the Psalm, is to remind us of the never-failing nature of the mercy of God.

The writer takes us from creation, through the history of the nation, explaining that God’s mercy has never failed. The mercy that delivered the people from bondage, provided for them in the wilderness, and gave them victory in the battles of life, is the same mercy that is available to sustain them today.

The same is true of us. If we look back on our days, with the eyes of heaven, we will see that every step of our lives has been marked by the mercy of God. It was His mercy that we did not die in our folly, prior to meeting Christ. It was His mercy that led us to realize our need for Jesus. It was His mercy that provided the way for our sins to be forgiven, and eternal life received. It is His mercy that provides daily pardon for our struggles, failures, and even our out-right disobedience. It is His mercy that puts up with our slow growth, and continual backsliding, and it is His mercy that provides everything we need to grow in Christ, and overcome our easily besetting sins. It is His mercy that puts breath in our lungs, strength in our bodies, and provides for our every need. It is His mercy that keeps our marriages going, equips us to raise our children to follow Jesus, and enables us to impact others for Christ.

Years later, Jeremiah would write that the mercies of God are new every morning. Everyday, when you arise, the mercy of God is new again. You cannot overextend it, but you can enjoy it. Instead of spending the day complaining about the difficulties you are facing, or the people who make life hard, why not spend your day extolling God for His infinite mercy? One man wrote,

“When all else is changing within and around,

In God and His mercy no change can be found.”

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
2 Chronicles 9- Unraveling
2 Chronicles 10- Independence

Count Your Blessings

Psalms 135:2-3
You who stand in the house of the LORD,
In the courts of the house of our God,
Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good;
Sing praises to His name, for it is pleasant.

Unknown-4.jpegThe Psalms served as the hymnal for the nation of Israel. It is a collection of songs designed to celebrate the Lord and to stir the people to action. This particular song calls upon the child of God to express heart felt worship. The verses that follow take us quickly through Israel’s history and remind us of the power, care and faithfulness of God. Essentially the songwriter is looking back and reflecting upon the ways in which God has blessed his life. I think that can be a very valuable and even rewarding practice. I was speaking with a friend recently who shared that he woke up in the middle of the night and was unable to sleep. Instead of turning on the tv, searching the web or grabbing for a book he began to simply reflect upon his life and how the hand of God had so faithfully guided and cared for him. While sleep evaded him the mercies and grace of God flooded his heart and mind.

Perhaps this would be a good exercise for all of us.

Take a few minutes to make a list of how God has cared for and guided you. Think back over the years but be sure to give ample attention to the present.

Once your done spend a few minutes worshipping God for His faithfulness and then share your list with a friend.

Pastor Jim

Sweet

Psalm 133:1
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”

The psalmist is calling us to action. He desperately wants our attention, and calls us to look at the brethren dwelling together in unity. The unity he was speaking of was a united desire to seek after and worship Jehovah. This Psalm was one of the many songs the travelers to Jerusalem would sing as they made their way up the mountain to celebrate the feasts of the Lord. People from all over Israel congregated together with the unified purpose of devoting themselves more wholeheartedly to the Lord. The Psalmist declares, it is a good and pleasant thing, something worthy of our attention. This uniting of the brethren is good and pleasant for many reasons; not the least of which is the result it brings. David declares, it is like the anointing oil that was poured out upon the priests.

Shortly after being delivered from Egypt, God established the worship practices for the congregation of Israel. In order to ensure their spiritual development, He set up the descendants of Aaron as the priesthood. They would be responsible for much of the labor involved in making the corporate worship possible. The priests were clothed in special garments (a picture of being clothed in righteousness), then the sacrificial blood of the lamb was placed upon them for cleansing, and finally the anointing oil was poured on them. The blood serves as a type of Christ being crucified for the cleansing of our sin, and the oil a type of the Spirit of God, poured upon us, and equipping us for service. David describes the oil being poured on Aaron’s head and dripping down upon his beard and garments. It is a picture of the flowing of the Spirit upon those who have gathered together.

There is something special, something holy and divine, when we gather for corporate worship. Paul spoke of the body ministering to itself in love. As each of us are filled with the Spirit of God, and gather to seek the face of God, an atmosphere develops where the Spirit is flowing. How many times have you been met by God in the midst of worship? It is because the anointing oil is running off the beard of the worship leader. How many times have you been ministered to after service while speaking with another, and they begin to share things with you that encourage, edify and challenge you? It is because the oil is dripping from their beard. How many times have you been sitting in the service and felt as though the pastor was speaking directly to you? It almost seems as though the room has emptied and you are alone, hearing directly from God’s Word. It is because the oil is dripping from his beard. It is possible for the oil to drip from yours as well. When you gather next with the saints, don’t come simply to receive, come ready to give. As you walk into the fellowship, be praying that God will bring you face to face with someone to whom you will be able to minister. Few things are more exciting than knowing the Spirit of God has worked through you in the life of another.

Pastor Jim

Questions for Psalm 133
   1. What does God say about dwelling in unity?
2. How does he describe it in verse 2?

Old Testament:
Psalm 134- Bless The Lord
2 Chronicles 7- Our Nation

Selfie

Psalms 131:1
“Lord, my heart is not haughty, Nor my eyes lofty. Neither do I concern myself with great matters, Nor with things too profound for me.”

As this short psalm begins to unfold, David celebrates the condition of his heart. He is rejoicing that his heart is not haughty nor his eyes lofty. In other words he does not have an exalted view of himself. There is no indication within the psalm as to when it was composed. If it was written early on, David was a talented young man who was gifted as a musician and a shepherd. His musical talents had landed him a position as the private worship leader for the king. If it was written a little later, David had proved himself a valiant warrior and was in command of Israel’s forces and was the object of the attention of the young maidens in the land. If it was written in a later season, David had become king of the nation and brought Israel to the height of their success. Yet in all of his success he was careful not to become haughty or to have an exalted view of himself. It seems that David always saw himself as that young shepherd boy who sat among the sheep and fixed his eyes upon the Lord.

We live the age of self promotion. We do not need a press agent because we all have access to social media. Many of us spend hours each day coming up with just the right post for Facebook or image for Instagram. We want everyone to think we are the most creative parent, with the most talented children who go on the most imaginative vacations and accomplish the most extraordinary things. We are often guilty of not only have a lofty opinion of ourselves but wanting to make sure that everyone else has that same opinion. Perhaps it would do us good to consider how God views pride and humility.

Proverbs 3:34 “Surely He scorns the scornful, But gives grace to the humble.”

James 4:6 “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”

1 Peter 5:5 “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”

In the kingdom of God self exaltation is never the road the to take. If we want to experience the grace of God it is found by taking the low place and exalting the Lord and others.

Pastor Jim

Questions for Psalm 131

  1. According to verse 1 David writes about being content. What does he say about his heart and eyes?
  2. In verse 2 do you ever remember a time in your adult life where your soul felt like a weaned child with his mother? Rest, stay still and hear his voice.

Old Testament:
Psalm 132- Priorities
2 Chronicles 6- The Cross

The Mission Field

Psalms 129:2-3
“Many a time they have afflicted me from my youth;
Yet they have not prevailed against me.
The plowers plowed on my back;
They made their furrows long.”

Unknown-3.jpegThe psalmist describes himself in a most vivid and horrifying manner. He states that his condition is as though the beasts of burden have veered off course and turned the plow back on the farmer. I do not know much about farming but I can imagine that to be an extremely painful experience. The cause of this dilemma was not wrong doing on the part of the author but rather he was being mistreated because of his association. We might say he was guilty by association. Those who were coming down hard upon him were doing so because they were angry at God or at the demands that His law placed upon them. This is a very common occurrence. Jesus told His followers they should expect to be mistreated simply because they have elected to follow Christ and bear His name.

John 15:20
Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.

One of the great challenges for the child of God is how to combat the retaliation we experience because we follow Christ. It is tempting for us to view those who oppose Christ as the enemy. Perhaps a better way is to see them as the mission field. In the early years of the church, believers faced intense opposition much of which was being driven by a man named Saul. He seemed to most as the enemy, but Jesus had a different viewpoint. He saw what Saul would become if he encountered the gospel message. While many were hiding from Saul’s threats, Jesus was pursuing Saul. It was an encounter with the risen Savior that changed Saul and brought salvation to countless others.

If you feel as though the plow is on your back because you love, follow and share Christ with others, keep in mind that the opposition is actually aimed at Jesus and through your faithfulness we might all see another Saul get saved.

Pastor Jim

Questions for Psalm 129

  1. In the moment we sometimes feel defeated but in the bigger picture God shows His righteousness. How can keep challenges of our lives in perspective?
  2. Verse 8 is a great memory verse…….bless you in the name of the Lord!

Why Worry?

Psalm 127:2
It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He gives His beloved sleep.”

The Psalmist is describing a scenario common to all of us. There are times, when the hand life deals us is difficult to cope with; sleep is affected, and our minds are tormented. There are many terms that describe this condition, but perhaps the most common is worry. One dictionary defines worry as, “to torment oneself with or suffer from disturbing thoughts; to fret.” I think that is a pretty apt description of worrying; to torment yourself. When we lay in bed unable to sleep, or rise up to pace the floor, filling our minds with what-ifs and worse case scenarios, we are really tormenting ourselves. It is as if we are waterboarding ourselves, and wondering why we are suffering so greatly. The question is not whether we will face things that fill us with dread, concern and anxiety, the question is how we will react. What is the proper response for the child of God when he is faced with things bigger than himself?

“It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He gives His beloved sleep.” First, notice that Solomon declares that worry is vain. The word vain means empty. In his other writings, he defined vanity as attempting to grab a handful of wind. Imagine the folly of taking a handful of cool air and placing it in your pocket for later in the day when the temperature rises. In the same way, it is foolish to worry, because it is an empty endeavor. Worry cannot produce anything positive. Jesus put it like this, “Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?” (Matthew 6:27) Worry will never produce growth. It will produce a deeper level of anxiety, making us irritable, incapable of performing our responsibilities, and can even produce negative physical effects, like an ulcer. Life often throws things at us that fill us with worry, yet worry has no positive value in our lives. How should we handle those times when we are filled to the top with anxiety?

Again Solomon declares, “It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He gives His beloved sleep.” The wonderful truth for us to grasp, is that the Lord will give rest to His children. We experience this rest when we realize that the things we are facing, while much too big for us, are never too much for Him. Our life is like a walled city, and the Lord is our watchman. Nothing gets in that He has not allowed. He is able to use even the gravest of circumstances to produce His desired effects within the child of God.

Instead of filling your mind with the things that create anxiety, fill your minds with the promises of God, and enjoy the rest that only He provides.

Pastor Jim

Questions for Psalm 127

  1. The bible speaks often about the importance of diligence and hard work (Proverbs 10:4, 12:24, 13:4, and 21:5).  However in verse 1 of this psalm we see an important balancing truth regarding our labors and effort.  What is that?
  2. In verse 2 we read some important truths regarding rest and overworking.  Do you feel like you overwork and that you must?  What does the scripture say regarding that?  Read Matt 11:28.
  3. Verses 3-5 tell us some wonderful truths about children.  Although sometimes children can be difficult, and we are not always thankful for them, what is the reality from God’s point of view regarding children?

Old Testament:
Psalm 128- Family 101
2 Chronicles 1- Slip Sliding
2 Chronicles 2- Heavy Lifting

Cannot Be Moved

Psalms 125:1
“Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, Which cannot be moved, but abides forever.”

4,000 years ago Abraham was instructed to take his son to Mount Zion and offer him to the Lord. 2,800 years ago David purchased the threshing floor of Ornan on top of Mount Zion so his son Solomon could erect a permanent house for the Ark and a place for Israel to worship. 2,000 years on that same mountain the son of God was sacrificed for the sins of all mankind as a means of providing salvation for anyone who would humble themselves and call upon the name of the Lord. And today countless people from all over the world make pilgrimages to mount Zion to reflect upon these events and so many more. Millions of visitors, thousands of storms, hundreds of wars and mount Zion has yet to be moved.

The psalmist boldly declares that those who trust in the Lord will be just like mount Zion. Although time passes and difficulties come, those who trust in the Lord will be as unmovable as mighty mount Zion. Not only will our lives be unshakable but they will one day have a testimony to share with all who are willing to take a look. That testimony will declare the faithfulness of the Lord regardless of our failures or the tragedies and triumphs of life.

Pastor Jim

Questions for Psalm 125

  1. What is true of the one who trusts in the Lord?
  2. How does it encourage you to know that the Lord surrounds his people?
  3. What will happen to those who stray?

Old Testament:
Psalm 126- Sowing In Tears 
1 Chronicles 28- Looking Ahead
1 Chronicles 29- Investment