Seeking Your Good August 15, 2009Posted by preacherwin in Devotions, Devotions on Psalm 122.
Tags: benevolence, fellowship, Grace, I will seek your good, on behalf of God, Psalm 122:9
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“On behalf of the house of Yahweh, our God,
I will seek out good for you.”
Do you intentionally seek out the good of those in your Christian fellowship? This does not mean that you do them a favor now and again when they ask, but do you intentionally go out of your way to bless those around you even apart of their asking. Such is what the psalmist is stating. The Hebrew word that he uses in the second clause is the word vq;b” (baqash), which means to diligently search something out—to hunt it down or to demand of yourself that you find what you are looking for.
One of the things I love to do is to rummage through stacks of old books looking for those rare treasures that often get buried and forgotten. I have been known to haunt the shelves of used book stores, happily spending hours looking for books. It is granted that different people find their interest in different things, but I think that most people like hunting for treasure in one sense of the word or another. Some enjoy bargain hunting at yard-sales, some online. Some enjoy combing the beaches with a metal detector and some love reading a good mystery novel, searching the pages diligently for clues. The recent popularity of pirate movies and stories in American culture is once again a testimony that we enjoy hunting things out.
Yet apply this to the life of the church. What would it look like in a congregation if the members were as diligent in seeking ways to bless each other as they were in seeking bargains for themselves. What if, instead of being students of the value of worldly goods, we became students of one another, doing so with the intention of bringing good into another’s life. Understand, too, that the motivation for doing good is not so that others will do good to you, but simply to bless another individual and by doing so, honor God. How different our churches might be.
Beloved, on behalf of the house of God—our God—let us diligently seek to do good to one another and to those who visit with us. Indeed, how different our fellowships would look if our members were going out of their way to bless each other—even to the point of demanding of themselves, I will make sure that I bless this person or that person today.
Peace be with You August 15, 2009Posted by preacherwin in Devotions, Devotions on Psalm 122.
Tags: peace, peace be with you, peace within your walls
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“May there be peace within your walls—
peace in your palace.
On account of my brothers and of my companions,
I will now say, ‘Peace be with you.’”
Indeed, how important the blessing of peace is. We have already discussed the value of peace in connection to freedom from one’s enemies—the ultimate peace coming from God himself who sent his Son, Jesus, to suffer and die to bring us freedom from the great and final enemy, death (notice too how God connects his “peace” to his people with his covenant faithfulness and mercy—Jeremiah 16:5). In light of that, let us reflect for a moment on how often the blessing of peace is offered by the authors of the New Testament:
“To all those in Rome who are beloved of God and called holy: Grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
“Therefore, having been justified as a result of faith, we have peace toward God through our Lord, Jesus Christ.”
“But may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in the believing, that you may abound in the hope that is in the power of the Holy Spirit.”
“Grace to you and peace, from God, our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.”
(1 Corinthians 1:3)
“Peace to the brethren, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
“And the peace of God, which exceeds all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
“Now, may the God of peace wholly sanctify you himself—and the whole of your spirit and soul and body be kept blamelessly—until the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
(1 Thessalonians 5:23)
“Pursue peace with all, and the holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.”
“But the fruit of righteousness in peace is sown by those who make peace.”
“May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus, our Lord.”
(2 Peter 1:2)
“Peace to you. The friends greet you, greet the friends according to the name.”
(3 John 15)
“May mercy be to you and may peace and love be multiplied.”
“John, to the seven churches in Asia. Grace to you and peace from the one who is and who was and who is coming and from the seven spirits in front of his throne.”
These are only a sampling of the promises and blessings of peace that are found in the New Testament—again, a peace that can only be found in Jesus Christ. My prayer is that we would commit ourselves to the task of praying for peace for our churches, but also that we seek to work out peace in the lives of those around us—for indeed, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). As Jesus reminded his disciples on the night that he was arrested:
“Peace I leave you; the peace which is mine, I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you; do not let your heart be troubled nor be afraid.”
Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem August 15, 2009Posted by preacherwin in Devotions, Devotions on Psalm 122.
Tags: Christian rest, Church, peace, Peace for Jerusalem, Psalm 122:6, Rest, rest in Christ
“You must pray for the peace of Jerusalem!
May those who love you rest at ease.”
Beloved, how do you pray for the church? The word that we translate as “pray” in this passage is the Hebrew word, la’v’ (shaal), which more literally refers to the way someone might plead or beg for something. There is a sense of desperation in its tone. Beloved, is this the way in which you pray for the church? Do you plead with God for her purity and for her peace? Are you committing yourself to intercede on her behalf, not just for her witness, but for her genuine peace as well. Just as the psalmist is commending ancient Israel to do this for Jerusalem, how desperately important it is for us to do so for the church—both for our local congregations and for the witness of evangelical churches throughout the world.
But what do we mean by “peace”? The term ~Alv’ (shalom) means more than rest from war or personal comfort without oppression, though certainly those elements are included and those elements should be at the heart of our prayer life. Indeed, we should long for the day when the scoffers and nay-sayers who mock the church are brought into judgment and they can no longer tear down God’s people. At the same time, the call for peace, in the Hebrew tongue also anticipated the coming of the Messiah (for the Hebrews today, it still does—at least in their mindset). It is a longing for the great redeemer that God had promised to send to his people…though the Jewish people rejected Him. And praise the Lord that the Jewish people rejected Christ, for this rejection made way for the Gospel to go out to us, the gentile believers! When we see the mighty plan of God unfolded in this way, all we can do is to say with the Apostle Paul:
“Oh the depth of riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unfathomable are his judgments and inscrutable his ways!”
Thus, when we pray for peace, we pray with the knowledge that God has already sent his Messiah in Jesus Christ and assured for us, his people, the peace that “passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) which will “rule in our hearts” (Colossians 3:15) and be a testimony of a mind that is set upon Jesus Christ (Romans 8:6). Indeed, our Lord, said, “my peace I leave with you” (John 14:27) and it is because of this that our hearts need not fear or be troubled by the things of the world. We have a confidence that the peace of God has been offered in part to us already and that there is a guarantee given to those who are trusting in Jesus Christ that such peace will be enjoyed in its fullness in the world to come, thus as we pray for that peace here and now, we also pray to hasten the day of our Lord’s return. Indeed, “come Lord Jesus, come!” (Revelation 22:20).
Beloved, let us pray for the peace of the church so that our minds and hearts might rest assured. There are many trials and difficulties that must be faced in this fallen world and there are many challenges that must be met, yet the church of Christ has been promised victory; let us be a part of that mighty day and engage the world’s lies with Truth, knowing that the Messiah has come and his name is Jesus Christ.
The Testimony of Israel August 15, 2009Posted by preacherwin in Devotions, Devotions on Psalm 122.
Tags: attendance, faith, psalm 122:4, Testimony, Witness
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“Which is where the tribes go up—the tribes of Israel—
as the testimony of Israel;
to give praise to the name of Yahweh!”
Have you ever thought of your church attendance being part of your testimony? I am not simply referring to a testimony of praise to God, but a testimony before the nations that God is living and active in your life. It is easy for us to nod some level of agreement to this statement, for the fact that we choose to attend church rather than do other things on Sunday is a constant reminder to unbelievers of our faith, but let us take it one step further…how about the demeanor or attitude that you take about going to church with your non-Christian acquaintances? Do you make it seem like you would rather be out goofing off with them, but you have to be in church? Do you fall over yourself apologizing for not being able to do the things that the others are doing? What message does such a stance send regarding the desires of your heart for the Sabbath day?
Loved ones, what a contrast the Biblical model presents to our more modern practice! Our joyful attendance upon the Lord’s worship is to be our testimony. We are not to grumble, but we are to shout to the world that Christ is alive and that he is the only source of salvation for mankind! We are to proclaim that there is only one name by which mankind can know salvation and that he has given us the great privilege of knowing him in that way. Beloved, we have been given a wonderful and awesome gift, why be silent about it? Why grumble and mutter about obligation? Our worship is the place wherein which we gather with those of the redeemed to enter into the greatest wonder and joy that life can ever bless us with—the presence of Jesus Christ our Lord! What a wonderful opportunity to testify to the nations by testifying to our neighbors that one can find life and life abundantly in Jesus Christ the Lord!
My prayer for you this day is that you see your worship as part of your testimony and that you become intentional about how you come into the gathering of the faithful. Do you come in with a shout of joy or do you come in with a groan and a whimper? How you come in communicates a world of truth about your heart’s state. Loved ones, do not fall into the traps that the world sets for us—never apologize for your faith, but boldly proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord and that you look forward to the day wherein God’s people gather to make a public testimony of the greatness of our God.
The splendor of the king, clothed in majesty,
Let all the earth rejoice; all the earth rejoice.
He wraps himself in light, and darkness tries to hide,
And trembles at his voice, and trembles at his voice!
How great is our God!
Sing with me—
How great is our God!
And all the world will see,
How great, how great is our God!
Jerusalem Built as a City Joined to Itself August 15, 2009Posted by preacherwin in Devotions, Devotions on Psalm 122.
Tags: diversity, Jerusalem, one body, overcoming the world, Psalm 122:3, unity
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“Jerusalem, which has been built—as a city;
one which has been joined together to itself.”
The actual city of Jerusalem is interesting in its layout. The city walls enclose multiple inter-connected hills and mountain peaks, which were joined as a single layout. Literally, it is a city that has been “joined together to itself.” And because of its geography, multiple walls, and internal access to fresh water, the Romans considered this city to be the most defensible city in their empire. Were it not for intense in-fighting and squabbling amongst rival factions, some have suggested that it would have been difficult for Rome to have sacked the city in 70 AD.
Once again I am going to make an intentional jump in comparison, connecting the city of Jerusalem to the institutional church—both being the place of meeting for the worship of the people of God. Assuming we can grant this connection, it is remarkable how similar the two can be. Churches are made up of people who come from various backgrounds of life: different economic strata; different levels of education; different experiences; different age groups; different cultural backgrounds, etc… People who might never socialize together were they left outside of the church are brought together within the church for the worship and glory of Jesus Christ. Jesus, himself, describes the church using the analogy of a body with all of its many parts—all joined together and interconnected for a single purpose. Like Jerusalem, the church has been “joined together to itself” in Jesus Christ.
Yet, to take the analogy further, how often we find ourselves divided within the body due to petty disagreements and differences. How often we find ourselves warring against the bonds that bind us together. How often the secular world is able to conquer the church because the church has broken down its own defenses and destroyed its own unity. Beloved, how sad it is that we are often guilty of doing the enemies work for them!
With all of the varied gifts and strengths that God has given to the church, the church should never find itself overcome by the world—her spiritual walls are too thick and her natural territory is too defensible. We should be able to stand strong against any onslaught that the enemy might bring in our direction. How often we fail. Loved ones, be reminded by the words of the psalmist—we are a church that has been joined together with itself; may we work to strengthen and encourage that unity, not to undo the strength we have been afforded.
Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like that to that above.
Before our Father’s throne
We pour our ardent prayers;
Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one
Our comforts and our cares.
“I am no longer in the world, yet they are in the world, and so I come to you. Holy Father, guard them in your name which you have given to me in order that they may be one just as you and I.”
Standing in Your Gates August 15, 2009Posted by preacherwin in Devotions, Devotions on Psalm 122.
Tags: numbered with Jesus Christ, Psalm 122:2, Standing, standing in the gates
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“Our feet are standing in your gates,
At first, this might sound like a pretty mundane statement—of course your feet would stand within the gates of Jerusalem—they would do so several times each year when you went down to Jerusalem for the festivals. But there is more to this statement than the literal image of the psalmist physically standing in Jerusalem’s gates. To begin with, the idea of standing carries with it some theological significance. Where one “stands” marks with whom one will be numbered. King David begins Psalm 1 with the statement that those who do not “stand” in the way of sinners will be blessed. Psalm 76:7 (76:8 in the Hebrew text) declares, “who can stand before you from the onset of your anger.” Again, this speaks not only of physically standing up (though that is included), but also speaks of one being able to stand upright and without blame before the judge of creation coming in wrath over sin.
Thus, when the psalmist speaks with joy of standing in the gates of Jerusalem, it speaks of how he was being numbered amongst the other people who belong to God’s great city. The psalmist is proclaiming not simply that he has made the trek up to Jerusalem but he belongs there and that sense of belonging is a good thing for he is numbered amongst other faithful pilgrims who also belong to this great city.
In a sense, we can once again parallel the heart of this passage with our place in the church. All too often people “go to church” but never feel a sense of belonging to the church. How we need to change that mindset in our culture. Not only must we strive to be numbered amongst the righteous by God’s own grace, but also to be seen as amongst those who really belong to Jesus Christ by word and action and that our feet would indeed be numbered amongst those who stand in the gates of the church of Jesus Christ.
Let us Go to the House of the Lord August 15, 2009Posted by preacherwin in Devotions, Devotions on Psalm 122.
Tags: Church, House of the Lord, House of Yahweh, Jerusalem, Psalm, Psalm 122, rejoicing
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“A Psalm of Ascents; of David.
I rejoiced when ones said to me,
‘Let us go to the house of Yahweh!’”
This psalm begins with a wonderful statement that is alien to the experience of many American Christians: “I rejoiced” when it came time to go to the house of the Lord. Now, your temptation might be to argue with me and say that every Christian is now a temple of the Holy Spirit, so there is no longer any “going up” to the temple in Jerusalem (or elsewhere) and thus one cannot make a parallel between the Temple and the Church building. All of that may be true on a surface level, but let’s hear the heart of the psalmist. Why is he glad to go to God’s house? Not only is it the place where he can enter into God’s presence, but it is also the place where he can gather with other believers in fellowship and in common worship and it is a place where he can go and sit under the instruction of the priests of God’s Word. Though there are some theological nuances that we must be careful with, there really are a number of similarities in sentiment as to why the psalmist is rejoicing—this gathering is something that he has been looking forward to for a long time. Hmmm…can we say the same thing about our gatherings on Sunday morning with the other believers? Do we look forward to Sunday all week long, or is Sunday worship just something we do?
This is an important question to ask in a culture where the mindset that many take is that they can worship on the golf course just as well as they can worship in the pew. It is also an important question to ask in a culture where the institutional church is being rejected and being replaced by the “emergent” church—a group that rejects the institutional church altogether. So how do we answer this question? Is it a good thing for us to gather with other believers in the Christian age or must this psalm be relegated to the Jewish church?
To begin with, we must never forget that Christian fellowship was given to the church for her edification. The church is described as a “body with many parts” in 1 Corinthians 12 as well as a building made up of many stones in 1 Peter 2. This idea sets before us the initial reality that if we are going to be believers in Jesus Christ, we are going to have to do so in community and in relationship with other believers. In addition, this community and fellowship is not something that we are to dread, but instead is something that “makes our joy complete” (1 John 1:4). Indeed, the hymnist is correct when he refers to the church as a “happy throng.”
Yet the joy of the church does not come from fellowship with other Christians; one can find that at a variety of social gatherings. The joy comes from Jesus Christ. Not only is Christ in our midst, he is binding us together as one body of Christ to his own glory and honor and to our joy and satisfaction. Indeed, we ought rejoice when our brother or sister in the faith says, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” For that is an invitation not only for joyful fellowship, but for joyful fellowship before Jesus Christ’s throne of grace as one body—united in faith before a living God. Let us rejoice and be glad!