God’s Prayer Book

 

Prayer is difficult. Not because of anything in God – as the Puritan Matthew Henry observed, God is more eager to hear our prayers than we are to pray them. No, prayer is difficult because of us. Sinful flesh and human weakness battle against our ability to persevere in prayer. Publishers know this. Search for “prayer” on Amazon and you’ll find enough books to construct a small mansion entirely from piles of “7 Steps” paperbacks. Many of these are helpful books (though some of them aren’t!). But wouldn’t it be nice to have the definitive book on prayer, one that included both forms of prayers and words to pray, one that could be used in any season of life?

Actually, that sounds like the Psalms.

The Psalms are the prayer and praise book of the Bible. When we read a psalm, we are listening in on an inspired conversation between God and his people. The conversation takes place sometimes in moments of pure delight and other times in extended seasons of crushing despair. Sometimes it is a private conversation: “Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing!” (Psalm 6:2). At other times we hear the raised voices of a glad throng of worshipers: “Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!” (Psalm 95:1). In a sense, the Psalms are God’s most comprehensive answer to the request, “Teach us to pray.”

Until recently I still never used psalms regularly in my prayer life. In the last few months I’ve been incorporating the psalms into my day, and it’s been a great blessing to me. I’m going to describe my current practice and some things I’ve learned, but with this caveat first: I’m not you! I’ve fallen victim too many times to slavishly following the most recent devotional suggestion I read on a blog as though any one person had the corner on the prayer market. Don’t do that. Odds are in a few months the practice I describe now will have changed in some way. So pick through what might be helpful, translate it to your own situation, and discard the rest. All right, with that out of the way, here’s what I’m doing.

There are two points in my day where I’m praying through a psalm. The first is after my regular Bible reading. I use a Bible reading plan and wanted to stick to it, so I just added reading through the Psalms 10-12 verses at a time. Sometimes I read more, occasionally I read less. But some portion of a psalm is always part of my morning. The other time is after I finish work each day. I’ve memorized a few of the shorter psalms and as I drive home I pray those back to the Lord. As I’ve done this, here are a few things I’ve learned that might be helpful.

•          Pick psalms that reflect your situation. The variety of life experiences reflected in Psalms is amazing. Take advantage of that. If your heart is glad, pray a psalm that reflects your joy. If you’re struggling, give voice to your battle with the words of one of David’s laments like Psalm 6 or Psalm 42. The Psalms don’t speak with in a monotone, one-size-fits-all voice. Neither should our prayers.

•          Personalize them as you pray them back to God. Did you know it’s okay to rewrite Scripture? No, I’m not talking about trying to sync Revelation with the Mayan calendar. What I’m talking about is personalized application. This is what the Bible invites us to do. When David prays “Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord” (Ps. 119:1), we’re to pray, “Lord, help me to walk blamelessly today when I’m tempted. Give me the blessedness of those who keep your commandments.” Psalm 46’s opening line, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” is meant to become “God you are my refuge, in this trouble. You are my strength in this moment.” That’s how the Psalms are to fuel our life of faith. They are meant to live where you live. Personalize them.

•          Consider memorizing a few particular psalms. You can memorize a whole chapter of the Bible. Start with Psalm 117; it’s only three verses! There are a lot of psalms that are under ten verses. Pick one that is meaningful to you and memorize it. Write it out repeatedly. Put it on an index card and carry it in your pocket throughout the day. The work of memorization requires you to meditate on Scripture, and it’s only one step from there to a conversation with God about it.

Prayer is difficult, but the Psalms are one of God’s provisions to strengthen our prayer lives. Let’s learn to use God’s prayer book!

 

Taken from http://www.theblazingcenter.com/2013/07/god-has-a-prayer-book-are-you-using-it.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TheBlazingCenter+%28The+Blazing+Center%29


Kickstart Your Devotions

 

There are times when, for whatever reason, our devotional life goes stale. Bible reading seems like a colossal chore, our prayers feel tepid and weak, and our love for God ebbs. We feel like we are stuck in a spiritual rut, like we don’t have any soul traction, like we’re just spinning our spiritual wheels. These times of staleness can be incredible frustrating and discouraging.

Are you in a spiritual rut? Here are a few practical tips to breath new life and vigor back into your devotional life.

PRAY! PRAY! PRAY!

All the practical tips in the world won’t make a lick of difference unless God moves mightily on your heart. God cannot be controlled. He is not a personal genie who can be summoned on command. He cannot be summarized or contained in a neat formula. But, he promises to respond to our humble requests. He is a good father who loves to give good gifts to his children. In Luke 11:13 Jesus said:

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!

God loves to give the Holy Spirit to us, but we have to ask! If your devotional life is in a rut, humbly confess your cold heart to God and ask him to breathe white hot affection back into you.

READ A BOOK

Seeing the splendors of God through the undimmed eyes of another person can be tremendously helpful. One of the ways to see God through the eyes of someone else is to read a book. Often times our view of God is cluttered and clogged by the circumstances of life. Reading a book allows us to stand on the shoulders of someone else and see over all the clutter. If your devotional life is dim and blurry, take a short break from your regular Bible reading and spend some time savoring a good book. I recommend any of the books on my list of thirty books every Christian should read. 

READ THE PSALMS

The Psalms are an intensely devotional section of scripture. The authors of the Psalms experienced the highs and lows of life, and they met God in the midst of those highs and lows. They experienced the faithfulness of God in the dry times and in the seasons of fruitfulness. If your devotional life is lacking oomph try spending some time in the Psalms.

START A BIBLE READING PLAN

Many times our devotions lack substance because we don’t appropriately plan them out. We meander from verse to verse, reading a bit here, a snatch there, yet never making any real progress through God’s word. If this describes your devotions, maybe you need a Bible reading plan to get you on track. The ESV Bible website has a bunch of different Bible reading plans to get you started. If your devotional life is lacking direction trying starting a Bible reading plan.

ABANDON YOUR PLAN

Some of us like plans a little bit too much. We like to make lists and then cross things off those lists. We like the feeling of progress, of moving forward, of gettin’ her done. We apply our love for plans to our Bible reading and thus read through the Bible every year like clockwork. This is a good thing, don’t get me wrong. But there are times when we need to abandon our plan and simply slow down our Bible reading. To delight in and savor a chapter, or a section, or just one verse. If your devotional life is feeling too rigid and stiff try abandoning your plan for a while.

CHANGE UP YOUR METHODS

Most of us read the Bible. After all, the Bible is a book and books are meant to be read. No argument from me. But remember, significant portions of the scriptures were originally intended to be heard. The apostolic letters were read aloud in the churches. The Psalms were read aloud in the synagogues. Scripture was meant to be both and read and heard. The ESV Bible site allows you to listen to the Bible instead of reading it. If your devotional life is feeling repetitive try listening to God’s word. Take notes as you listen.

Out of all these tips, the first is the most important. You can do all the right things and yet if God doesn’t work powerfully in your life nothing will happen. However, I know that God wants your devotions to be meaningful. He wants you to have a vibrant, joyful devotional life. In light of that truth I would encourage you to prayerfully try these different suggestions.

Don’t be content with a mediocre spiritual life. Press into God. He wants to meet you.

 

Taken from http://www.theblazingcenter.com/2013/07/six-ways-to-kickstart-your-devotional-life.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TheBlazingCenter+%28The+Blazing+Center%29


Psalm 139

 

There is perverseness to human thoughts about God that would be risible if it were not so tragic. We find ways to make him small.

A marvelous antidote is Psalm 139. It paints an exalted picture of God, yet does so in stunningly personal ways, as befits a psalm. In particular:

(1) God sees and knows everything (Ps. 139:1-6). The psalmist might have made that point as I just did — in the abstract. Instead, true to his form, he addresses God, acknowledging that this God’s knowledge is not passive and is not merely comprehensive: it is active and personal. This God knows the psalmist so thoroughly that he knows every movement his body makes, and every habit of his life, but also every thought he entertains and every word he speaks — even before they are formulated. Hebrews 4:13 says as much.

(2) God is omnipresent, and therefore inescapable (Ps. 139:7-12). Yet again, the thought in the text is not abstract. When David asks, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” (Ps. 139:7), it is pretty obvious that there is a part of him that wants to get away from God. It cannot be done. If David were to fly to the heavens or descend to Sheol, if he were to travel as far east or as far west as might be imagined, if he were to hide in the darkness — nothing could hide him from God’s searching gaze. By the end of the psalm, it is clear that David does not want to escape from this God (cf. Rom. 8:38-39).

(3) God is the Creator and providential Ruler (Ps. 139:13-18). Here David does not hark back to the initial creation, but to his own formation in his mother’s womb — which formation is, finally, nothing other than a work of God, for all its terrifying complexity. Nor does this God relinquish control once the creature is made: “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Ps. 139:16). In Scripture, this truth does not compromise human responsibility, but increases our faith. Perhaps it is the sheer breadth of such knowledge that prompts David to pen the last two verses of this section: God’s thoughts cannot be numbered, for they are more numerous than the grains of sand by the sea — which is no exaggeration at all.

(4) God is utterly holy (Ps. 139:19-24). David’s response to evil people is merely a function of his loyalty to God (Ps. 139:19-22).  What saves it from mere vindictive self-righteousness is the fact that in the light of this God’s holiness, David is no less resolved to deal with any evil in his own life (Ps. 139:23-24).

 

Taken from http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/loveofgod/

 


Psalm 119

 

By Don Carson

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/loveofgod/

 

IN ITS UNFOLDING REFLECTIONS on God and his revelation, Psalm 119 is unsurpassed. Here I shall focus on three themes that surface in Psalm 119:89-96.

(1) God’s revelatory word, that word that has been inscripturated (i.e., written down to become Scripture) is not something that God made up as he went along, as if he did not understand or could not predict exactly how things were going to pan out. Far from it: “Your word, O LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens” (Ps. 119:89). It was always there, eternal, in his mind. That is one of the reasons why he can be trusted absolutely: he is never caught out, never surprised. Because God’s word stands firm in the heaven, the psalmist can add, “Your faithfulness continues through all generations” (Ps. 119:90).

(2) There is a connection between the word of revelation and the word of creation and of providence. Thus the first line of verse 90, “Your faithfulness continues through all generations,” is tied to what precedes (end of v. 89) and to what succeeds (end of v. 90). God’s faithfulness through all generations is grounded, as we have seen, in the fact that God’s word stands firm in the heavens, but it is also grounded in God’s creative and providential work: “you established the earth, and it endures. Your laws endure to this day, for all things serve you” (Ps. 119:90-91). The same omniscient, ordering, reflective mind stands behind both creation and revelation.

(3) Far from being oppressive and limiting, the instruction of God is freeing and illuminating. “To all perfection I see a limit,” the psalmist writes; “but your commands are boundless” (Ps. 119:96). All human, earthly enterprises face limits. There are limitations on resources, on time, on the expanse of life that we may devote to such enterprises. Only so much time can be devoted to even the most sublime exercise. The limits themselves become frustrating barriers. More than one commentator has noted that this verse is almost a two-line summary of Ecclesiastes. There, every enterprise “under the sun” runs its race and expires, or proves unsatisfying and transient. In our experience there is but one exception: “your commands are boundless” (Ps. 119:96).

This includes more than the well-known paradox: slavery to God is perfect freedom. For a start, freedom must be defined. If our steps are directed to God’s word, there is freedom from sin (cf. Ps. 119:133); observance of God’s “precepts” is tied to walking about in “freedom” (Ps. 119:45). Moreover, reflection on and conformity with God’s words generates not narrow-minded bigotry, but a largeness of spirit that potentially stretches outward to the farthest dimensions of the mind of God; for “your commands are boundless.”

 


This Is The Day Which The Lord Has Made

 

When I was a boy, a plaque in our home was inscribed with the words “This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” Apart from the change from “hath” to “has,” similar words are preserved in the NIV of Psalm 118:24.

My father gently applied this text to his children when we whined or complained about little nothings. Was the weather too hot and sticky? “This is the day which the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” Were the skies pelting rain, so we could not go out to play? “This is the day the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” What a boring day (or place, or holiday, or visit to relatives)! “This is the day the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” Sometimes the words were repeated with significant emphasis: “This is the day the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”

It is not that Dad would not listen to serious complaints; it is not that Scripture does not have other things to say. But every generation of Christians has to learn that whining is an affront against God’s sovereignty and goodness.

But the text must first be read in its context. Earlier the psalmist expresses his commitment to trust in God and not in any merely human help (Ps. 118:8-9), even though he is surrounded by foes (Ps. 118:10). Now he also discloses that his foes include “the builders” (Ps. 118:22) — people with power within Israel. These builders were quite capable of rejecting certain “stones” while they built their walls — and in this case the very stone the builders rejected has become the capstone. In the first instance this stone, this capstone, is almost certainly a reference to a Davidic king, perhaps to David himself. The men of power rejected him, but he became the capstone.

Moreover, this result was not achieved by brilliant machination or clever manipulation. Far from it: “the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes” (Ps. 118:23). In his own day Isaiah portrays people who make a lie their refuge while rejecting God’s cornerstone (Isa. 28:15-16). The ultimate instance of this pattern is found in Jesus Christ, rejected by his own creatures, yet chosen of God, the ultimate building-stone, and precious (Matt. 21:42; Rom. 9:32-33; Eph. 2:20; 1 Peter 2:6-8) — a “stone” disclosed in all his true worth by his resurrection from the dead (Acts 4:10-11). Whether in David’s day or in the ultimate fulfillment, this marvelous triumph by God calls forth our praise: This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it (Ps. 118:24).

 

From For The Love of God by Don Carson


Creed

 

I believe in God the Father,
Almighty Maker of heaven and Maker of earth,
And in Jesus Christ His only begotten son our Lord.
He was conceived by the Holy Spirt,
born of the virgin Mary.
Suffered under Pontius Pilot
where he was crucified dead and buried.
And I believe what I believe in
is what makes me what I am.
And I did not make it,
no it is making me
It is the very truth of God
and not the invention of any man.
I believe that He who suffered
was crucified, buried and dead.
He descended into hell
and on the third day He rose again.
He ascended into heaven
where He sits at God’s mighty right hand.
I believe that He’s returning to judge
the quick and the dead of the sons of men.
I believe it, I believe it. I believe it.
I believe it, I believe it. I believe it.
I believe in God the Father,
Almighty Maker of Heaven and Maker of earth
And in Jesus Christ His
only begotten Son our Lord.
I believe int the Holy Spirit,
one Holy Church
The communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sin
I believe in the resurrection
I believe in a life that never ends.

Psalm 103

 

Bless the Lord, O my soul,

and all that is within me,

bless his holy name!

2 Bless the Lord, O my soul,

and forget not all his benefits,

3 who forgives all your iniquity,

who heals all your diseases,

4 who redeems your life from the pit,

who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,

5 who satisfies you with good

so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

6 The Lord works righteousness

and justice for all who are oppressed.

7 He made known his ways to Moses,

his iacts to the people of Israel.

8 The Lord is merciful and gracious,

slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

9 He will not always chide,

nor will he keep his anger forever.

10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,

nor repay us according to our iniquities.

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,

so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;

12 as far as the east is from the west,

so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

13 As a father shows compassion to his children,

so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.

14 For he knows our frame;

he remembers that we are dust.

15 As for man, his days are like grass;

he flourishes like a flower of the field;

16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,

and its place knows it no more.

17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,

and his righteousness to children’s children,

18 to those who keep his covenant

and remember to do his commandments.

19 The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,

and his kingdom rules over all.

20 Bless the Lord, O you his angels,

you mighty ones who do his word,

obeying the voice of his word!

21 Bless the Lord, all his hosts,

his ministers, who do his will!

22 Bless the Lord, all his works,

in all places of his dominion.

Bless the Lord, O my soul!

 

 

IT IS DIFFICULT TO IMAGINE a lovelier psalm than Psalm 103. Across the centuries, countless believers have turned to these lines to find their spirits lifted, a renewed commitment to praise and gratitude, and incentive to prayer, a restoration of a God-centered worldview. This psalm could easily claim our meditations for the rest of the month, for the rest of the year. Instead, we focus on three of its features.

(1) The psalm is bracketed by exhortations to praise. At the front end, David exhorts himself, and, by his example, his readers: “Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name” (Ps. 103:1). Implicitly David recognizes that it is distressingly easy to preserve the externals of praise, with nothing erupting from within the heart of God’s image-bearers. This will not do: “all my inmost being, praise his holy name.” By the end of the psalm, however honest and profound this individual’s worship, the framework for praising such a God is too small, for after all, God’s kingdom rules over all (Ps. 103:19): “Praise the LORD, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will. Praise the LORD, all his works, everywhere in his dominion. Praise the LORD, O my soul” (Ps. 103:20-22). Now the psalmist’s praise is one with the praise of heaven, with the praise of the entire created order.

(2) When David starts to enumerate “all his benefits” (Ps. 103:2), he begins with the forgiveness of sins (Ps. 103:3). Here is a man who understands what is of greatest importance. If we have everything but God’s forgiveness, we have nothing of worth; if we have God’s forgiveness, everything else of value is also promised (cf. Rom. 8:32).

(3) David soon moves from the blessings he enjoys as an individual believer to the Lord’s public justice (Ps. 103:6), to his gracious self-disclosure to Moses and the Israelites (Ps. 103:7-18). Here he stays the longest time, turning over and over in his mind the greatest blessings the Lord has granted to his people. Above all, he focuses once again on the sheer privilege of having sins forgiven, removed, forgotten. All of this, David perceives, stems from the character of God. “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love” (Ps. 103:8). He deals with our sin — but compassionately, fully bearing in mind our weak frames. We may be creatures of time, but “from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him” (Ps. 103:17).

 

Taken from http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/loveofgod/