Friday, February 27, 2009

Psalm 37 - Faithful Giving

Psalm 37 – Faithful Giving

21 The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously

There is no doubt the Psalmist is talking either about money or some sort of currency. And I’m sure we’ve all seen both sides of this….I know a LONG list of people that I would consider generous givers. I have seen people give way more than I thought they had to give….because they believed in the cause.
There are philanthropists all over the US who give millions and millions of dollars to research and projects and causes that are all good things.
But what the Psalmist is NOT saying is that generous givers are righteous people….he is saying that righteous people give generously.
In the mid to late 80’s my dad and uncle had been very successful in Real Estate speculation. What that means is that they had foresight and the “Midas Touch” when it came to finding a good deal…and making it happen.
That whole time….my dad modeled generous giving for me. We were wealthy and I might argue now, that we lived a little extravagantly….but he was a faithful tither….even on all the money he made.
I’ve often thought…..with what I make…I’ve never had a problem tithing….but what if I make 5 million dollars on a deal, could I write that $500,000 check. I hope I get the chance.
The two of them were in a business venture called Tristar Development….and if you are thinking….”Tri” means 3….so who is the third. Well there was a man who at the time was the money man. His name was Mr. Hafez and he was from Lybia. Supposedly at the time, he was on Muammar Gaddafi’s hit list. He fled Lybia with his family and millions of dollars. He provided backing in the form of cash…and deep pockets, which the banks loved to see when lending money to Tri-star.
Well in the oil and real estate bust of the late 80’s Mr. Hafez decided he’d had enough, and he bailed, leaving my dad and uncle in multi-million dollars worth of debt…with really no means to pay it back.
It was here that I may have gained the most respect and admiration for both my dad and uncle. They decided that they would repay it all. They sold what they had to, went to the lenders, worked out deals and paid for years….to repay every penny, without ever considering bankruptcy. Well I’m sure it crossed their minds….but my dad always told me that, real men….repay their debts. It’s a biblical concept…and a lasting legacy that my father has instilled in me.
And last on a lighter note….although it was common practice to leverage what you had to buy more….and to an extent we do this when purchasing a home.…I also learned you don’t buy stuff you can’t afford. I’m pretty sure it’s biblical too….at least Dave Ramsey would agree….the borrower is slave to the lender….and you cannot serve two masters.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Psalm 36 - "Old self" perspective

I first started reading this Psalm as if David was wrestling with sin…..but I believe in this Psalm, David is reflecting on his own past sinfulness and God’s goodness to rescue him from that. I feel he is referring to “the sinful man”, the man Paul refers to as, the Old Self (the one that devised evil and pursued evil.)
Psalm 36:1b There is no fear of God before his eyes.
Romans 3:18 There is no fear of God before their eyes. 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
I was talking with an old friend yesterday…..a guy that I should have literally DIED with, or at least been arrested with. Luckily neither of those things happened. He was in town to lobby at the Capital with some leaders in his industry. We were talking about all the trouble that we got into…and even more we should have gotten into. He and I have talked online via email and Facebook a little but he asked me……”How did you get from where WE were, to where YOU are?”
He asked for it….so he got it. I don’t know if he is searching, but I know that was a Spirit prompted question.
I talked to him about a Paul-like rescuing. I told him that God leveled me, took me to my knees and made me know that my worth, my security, my joy, hope and my salvation were all found in Christ alone.
Okay, maybe I wasn’t killing Christians, but my best friend in high school…..died not knowing Christ, my best friend! In high school (when I knew this friend) I wasn’t a reflection of the miracle of salvation….I wasn’t even a dim reminder. I was more concerned about the pursuit of “the Dream” than I was of the Eternal ramifications of sin in my life or my friends’ lives (or how my sin impacted not just myself....but them as well).
I know that something is different about me now, Christ is changing me more into His image. I pray that as I relate this picture of salvation, and completeness in Christ… it somehow resonates within people to want to know more about Him.
So I think its wise to reflect on a time before Christ, to think of the Old Self…and give glory to the One who plucked us from that existence, and to constantly be praying about sharing that story with ‘seekers’ (which is NOT a bad word).

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Psalm 35 - Wait

I noticed a couple of things in Psalm 35, the David/Jesus correlation is strong in this Psalm. It is thought that this Psalm was written with either Saul or Absolom pursuing David. I think the practical application for us is to wait on God.
David was mocked, lied about and literally fearful for his life. In all instances David continued to rely on God. And when God didn’t immediately answer….he waited some more.
I look at this Psalm as a prayer…and recalling what Matthew taught about this past week…I was looking at the posture of this prayer. David….though concerned of his own well being, was MORE concerned with the glory and fame of God.
The reasons to me are obvious…..David waited on God to do things His way…..that David was very capable of doing by his own hand. We know from 2 Samuel that David had multiple opportunities to kill Saul….yet he waited.
Another thing I noticed is that David approached God in confidence. Not that God owed David anything…but in that confidence a child might approach a parent, a comfortable confidence.
God I pray you take me back to that place where your will presupposes my own. God it hasn’t been that long, but it’s so easy to take back.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Psalm 34 - Banana Pudding

Psalm 34

8 Taste and see that the LORD is good

I am reminded of the horrific ‘Banana Pudding’ night at the Pruet house.
There is almost no dessert that I love, more than my wife’s banana pudding. I can’t remember who she got the recipe from…..but it was one of those things….when I tasted it for the first time, I was like,
“Honey!!!!! you have got to get this recipe.” And she did, and now it is her recipe..and it is devine.
Well one night, it had been a long time since Jenny had made it, and I said….”sweetheart, how bout making some banana pudding?” (and I was making sad puppy dog eyes) Of course she agreed.
Well that night at dinner…I was so excited to eat the banana pudding, and I couldn’t remember the last time we had it. So I was excited for the kids to join me in this awesome delectable treat.
So as dinner finished, I said, “Who wants banana pudding?” and I was raising my hand at my own question…and my son….didn’t. I was like….what’s wrong with him? He cant be my son….So I asked, why don’t you want any? And of course is answer was, “I don’t like it” to which I responded, “ How do you know you don’t like it, if you’ve never tried it?”
Anyway, this escalated to the point of him crying and me screaming that he would just try the banana pudding. He became irrational and I became incensed. It ended up being a battle of wills…..of which I don’t believe I’ve ever lost one of those. He eventually tried a bite…but that small amount of deliciousness….gave him the same reaction that I get when I tried liver….he gagged and almost threw up. Why? Because he had convinced himself that whatever he tasted was going to be rancid.
Needless to say, I don’t believe that I handled the who Banana Pudding incident correctly….but I did want him to try something that I loved. And I think, so many times we try to force Jesus down the throat of people…who for whatever reason, don’t think that they like Him. It offends us…..they become irate…..and it escalates to the point that they may never try Jesus again
This is what I love about “Loving Our Neighbor” and “Serving our City”…..people get a “taste” without ever stepping foot in a church building. They can make a rational judgment on Jesus based what we know Jesus to be about….. loving.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Psalm 33 - Atheistic Truth

16 No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. 17 A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save.
David really has an interesting perspective. Here he sits with wealth like no one else, armies that will die for him, personal triumphs over giants, horses and chariots at his command….and no means to save himself.
David truly relies on the Lord for his strength, his hope, his joy and his salvation.
This reminds me of the story of the rich young ruler…who asked Jesus, what must I do to be saved…and Jesus told him to sell everything first. Jesus looked into the soul of this man…and saw that the thing that stood in way of following was his wealth. David on the other hand, had the wealth…but it wasn’t a stumbling block for him.
I was reading on an atheist website, and they pointed out this apparent conflict in today’s society. How there is this western ideology/theology of ‘prosperity’ gospel, when in fact Jesus taught just the opposite. Hmmmmm…..strange when you learn truth from atheists.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Psalm 32 - Not Guilty? ...then quit acting like it

5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD "—
and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah

One interpretation of the word Selah is thought to mean…”think about it”. It is a pause in musical score of a Psalm….to give rest so the listener would actually digest the fullness of what the writer had penned. It is also similar to an Amen….or I agree with this!
So, this morning I paid attention to the verses immediately preceding Selah, and this one jumped out at me.
Brandon has said this, and I agree…that we cannot surprise God. No sin goes unnoticed and therefore, as believers….unpaid for….but the guilt of sin weighs us down, Satan beats us up with it, and we somehow become slaves to a forgiven offense. David is saying here…..not only is the sin forgiven….but the GUILT as well. And I love what Matthew Henry said about this….then ”God applies the healing balm by his Spirit”.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Psalm 29-31 Total Reliance

Psalm 29
God’s power, strength and hugeness.
Psalm 30
Joy of the Lord, mercy and favor
Psalm 31
David is in distress and he is calling to his rescuer, his rock, his fortress.

Actually a couple of things hit me this morning. One is all the worship songs and praise choruses that get phrases from these three Psalms. And two, what a roller coaster ride David is on.
In Psalm 31, David is under several types of persecution….he senses betrayal, a sense of worthlessness, and disdain for those who are bringing him grief. And he still relies on God to deliver him.
I guess it should be some comfort to those of us who waiver in between times of blessing and times of trial. One thing that David recognizes is that God remains constant. Our circumstances change….but God is faithful and just, merciful and mighty to save.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Psalm 28 - Roots

In the middle of this Psalm I am reminded that saying we love our neighbor or ‘going through the motions’ isn’t loving your neighbor. Verse 3 says;
3 Do not drag me away with the wicked, with those who do evil, who speak cordially with their neighbors but harbor malice in their hearts.
I was talking with a friend of mine last night and we were talking about how, sometimes that it is just plain hard to ‘Love Your Neighbor’. When people act and aren’t lovable…we kinda let ourselves off the hook. If we are wronged by our neighbor….and let me say this….our neighbor may be a;
opposing party in a lawsuit
an actual neighbor
or a friend who has hurt us
we may say we love our neighbor….but the Psalmist would consider us evil if we harbor malice. Loving our neighbors isn’t a negotiable, Jesus calls it the one of the greatest commandments when he is asked by the Pharisees, “what is the greatest commandment?” Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
What David is onto…and later Jesus….is that harboring malice is the root of sin. Like roots, you may not see it at first, because it is below the surface,
Romans 11:16b states that; ‘if the root is holy, the branches are too’ conversely, if the root is contempt or bitterness…the branches or fruit is sin.
What this is saying is…what is below the surface will eventually come out…that is why we are to pray for our enemies…’s not really for their good fortune….it’s actually for our own hearts.
I’ve fallen short in this so many times, but when I truly forgive someone who has wronged me (who didn’t ask for it) or unconditionally loved someone I may not normally God heals my heart and builds or restores the relationship.
A lot of the time we think….well….I don’t want that relationship restored ….friends, that is sin.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Psalm 27 - At home?

Psalm 27: 4 One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life
As I drive around Austin, there are so many gorgeous houses, huge multi-million dollar homes that overlook beautiful greenbelts with awesome views of the city and hill country. The lots themselves are valued in the million dollar plus range. I have been to parties, and been invited guest of people in these homes….and it’s a place where I think…..I could get used to this.
But seriously, I can’t afford it. I couldn’t pay the power bills on these homes…let alone the taxes or the mortgage. And another thing…as much as someone may say, “make yourself at home”….I can’t. No way. I can’t do the things in their home that I can in my own. I can’t take off my clothes and go lie in bed.
In this verse….the psalmist is saying….not only will I seek to find, but that I will strive after dwelling in the house of the Lord, it is worth striving for. Paul writes for us to “continue to work out your salvation” this work is the type of striving…I see the Psalmist talking about.
You know…much like I can’t afford the big houses in Austin, I cannot afford by any means this house of the Lord…..but Christ can….and heirs can. And an heir can dwell….or live in, make themselves at home in…the House of the Lord.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Psalm 26 - Welcome Judgment

Psalm 26
Vindicate me! Deliver me! Judge me! Redeem me! And be Merciful to me!
I don’t know if anyone short of Christ could stand before God and ask him to judge us. I read a book one time, sorry cannot remember the name, but it was talking about God’s judgment. It said, one of the things we have messed up….is that we think of judgment from a fallen world prospective. That we have seen people who judge as bad, we have seen bad judgment, we have seen judges in trials botch it…and overall we don’t want to be judged.
The bible talks about standing before the White Throne of Judgment…and honestly, that makes my knees weak thinking about it.
Rev 20:11Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books
But God’s judgment, though severe, is perfect. In God’s judging us, we are going to be made more into the image of His son. But, there will be a sense that through this…..we will know, this is right. God will not judge imperfectly….and David, in this Psalm projects an image of Christ.
11 But I lead a blameless life; redeem me and be merciful to me.12 My feet stand on level ground; in the great assembly I will praise the LORD.
God you are truly worthy of all our praise, and honor and glory. Thank you for your mercies and also…thank you for your judgment. Thank you for lifting us out of hell…and putting us on the solid ground…the solid rock of Jesus.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Psalm 25 - Where does my help come from?

Psalm 25:15 My eyes are ever on the LORD, for only he will release my feet from the snare.16 Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. 17 The troubles of my heart have multiplied; free me from my anguish.18 Look upon my affliction and my distress and take away all my sins.

Lately, I have been asking and paying more attention to people’s testimonies. Not just when, they entered into relationship with Christ….but what were the circumstances. What brought them to the place of dependence on Christ ALONE for salvation….and 9 times out of 10, people are (as the verses say) afflicted, lonely, troubled, sick or distressed. They are ensnared.

It’s in these times (either being without God or separated from Him) when we have tried everything else….we’ve used our resources, we’ve tapped our knowledge, we’ve read books, we’ve ask those around us for help......

Where does my help come from?

….in my case, I saw my lawyer, I cried with my wife, I cussed, I drank, I withdrew…..only to look up and cry out. I turned to Jesus…I went to my pastor….who gave me biblical counsel. And Christ met me in my crisis. He led me through the tough times…not that He solved my issues….but He gave me hope in the darkness and courage to walk with Him. He refocused my joy only on things eternal and not temporal.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Psalm 24 - Clean Hands

Psalm 24:3 Who may ascend the hill of the LORD ? Who may stand in his holy place?
Halt…..who goes there….and what gives you the right, the privilege of entering this place?
What can wash away my sins?
What can make me whole again?
This is all my righteousness…..
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Verse one says the Lord made the earth and everything in it. It just them makes sense that The Creator would then also determine what gives clean hands and a pure heart (makes one righteous). How arrogant some are to even claim righteousness, that somehow WE are the center of our own existence.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Psalm 23- Spare the Rod

I love this Psalm. Everyone knows this Psalm like they know “Roses are Red, Violets are Blue”… As I read this again….I thought…what a great shepherd. Shepherds give stability, they love, they guide, they feed and they also correct.

As parents we are to do all these things as well. We would be really bad parents if we didn’t discipline our children …and yes, there should be pain involved. Not necessarily physical pain…but I have always been a big fan of a nice swift swat on the butt.

But the connection I’ve heard made before is the ‘rod’ that comforts in the 23rd Psalm…is the rod of discipline. As parents, if we love our children…we are to correct loving with the rod of discipline. We’ve all heard “Spare the rod, spoil the child” the bible say we not only spoil them…we hate them.

Proverbs 13:24
He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.

We know that God disciplines those that he loves…
Hebrews 12:6 because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.

So its that discipline that comforts David in Psalm 23. When we are being disciplined….take heart, God loves us too much to let us continue in sin.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Psalm 22 - Comfort and Praise

To understand Christ’s ‘question’ on the cross, we don’t need to look any further than Psalm 22: 1 “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? “
We know in Christ’s day students of the law didn’t have their handy pocket NIV, but they knew scripture. They didn’t know it like we may recognize scripture….they knew the Torah…they knew the Psalms. Backwards and forward, by memory they knew the scriptures.
As Christ was hanging on the cross for all the worlds sins….his captive audience (those who knew scripture) caught the first line of Psalm 22. Needless to say, those listening…..immediately recited (in their own hearts and minds) the rest of the Psalm, which was actually more of praise than a cry for help.
In the 22nd Psalm we find;
- I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people.
- All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads
- I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint
- they have pierced my hands and my feet
- I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me
- They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing

Which are all realities for Christ on the cross.
The rest of the Psalm is basically a praise;
- O my Strength, come quickly to help me.
- I will declare your name to my brothers; in the congregation I will praise you.
- You who fear the LORD, praise him!
- All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
- Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
- They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn-for he has done it
(in other words….”it is finished”)
Jesus in those few word, found a way to comfort those around him, to make them aware that all was going according to God’s plan, and to praise God.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Psalm 21 - Strength Sandwich

Remembering back in Psalm 20…David and his men were going to war. “some boast in chariots, some in horses…but we will boast in the name of the Lord”.
Now they have just returned and seen the mighty strength of the Lord displayed again and David is thanking the Lord for granting the things that he asked for in 20.
Desires of his heart
Requests of his lips
Rich blessings
Long life
Eternal Blessings
Joy of your presence
Unfailing Love
In 21 David…. rejoices in the strength of the Lord(beginning of the Psalm), and exhalts the Lord in his strength (end of the Psalm). Those are the things that make all the gifts in the middle of the passage pleasing to God, because David does give honor and glory to God in these things.
Let's not forget to praise and give honor to the Lord in things we ask for...and even the things we dont. He will not share his Glory with another.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Nehemiah 13 - Second Fiddle

Nehemiah 13:6 But while all this was going on, I was not in Jerusalem, for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I had returned to the king.

You know, it doesn’t take that long for us to forget the blessings of God. The same God who gave Nehemiah the vision and the provision and the hands to rebuild the wall…was the same God worthy of huge celebration at the end of Nehemiah 12….was now second fiddle to the Israelites own desires.

They were working harder (longer weeks), overextending themselves, not keeping/desecrating the Sabbath, not taking care of the priests, and intermarrying (becoming unequally yoked).

I’ve seen kid after kid….at youth camp….make a profession of faith. I’ve literally seen hundreds, if not thousands come to Christ. What a great time that is. Youth who recognize that they don’t need to outperform others, and admit that that it is their own failures (sins) that require a Savior. And in that moment, God calls them….and they respond.

Then on the last night of a 5 day camp, the veterans of youth camp….speak at the final gathering….saying, “we’re not just gonna let this a camp experience”, “we’re going to set the example when we get home”…..and 9 times out of 10….those same kids are doing the things they swore not to do that last night. How quickly we forget!

God I pray we keep You in the forefront of our minds, all the time. Not just when we are around other Christ Followers, not when it’s convenient, not when we are in times of blessing and closeness…..but even when we feel distant. I thank you for being faithful…even when our faith wanes.
Hebrews 10:22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Nehemiah 12 - Passion445b.c.

Nehemiah 12:28 The singers also were brought together from the region around Jerusalem…….for the singers had built villages for themselves around Jerusalem.

One of the things that ANC is passionate about, is our corporate time of singing. We are blessed with a very gifted worship leader…..I am reminded by this in this chapter.

Back in this time….the singers were the worship leaders….and I read that they formed little communities of worship leaders to support each other and set themselves apart for this purpose.

There is a huge difference between someone who is a great singer and someone who is a great worship leader. It takes a special person, who is in union with God. I’ve seen great worship leaders, turn into okay worship leaders…and vise versa. And it’s really in their posture and attitude of Christ-minded focus. We at ANC are so blessed to have Chris Kipp and his heart and abilities. And when Chris goes down….so far….God has provided us with the likes of Andy Melvin and Lindsey Kane.

check out ANC worship on the new website;

So for the ‘grand opening’ (dedication) of the wall…they assembled the best of the best. If you will…. imagine, Chris Tomlin, Charlie Hall, Steve Fee, David Crowder, Christie Knockles, Lindsey Kane, Andy Melvin…and our own Chris Kipp….coming together and us worshiping our guts out. I can imagine this wall dedication being a Passion445b.c.!

Monday, February 02, 2009

Nehemiah 11 – Move Us

Jerusalem wasn’t safe, there was much work to be done, it was different, there were just a bunch of strangers there, it wasn’t home. So many reasons for the Israelites not to want to be there….but many ‘were called’ to live there. Many felt the pull of national pride, or maybe it was just the ‘greater purpose’ of being a part of a movement of something larger them themselves.
I can totally relate.
I would bet that many of the men had wives, who were beside themselves. They were probably thinking about the kids, the security, the problems that they would face, the relationships they would leave behind, the family that would be hurt…and ultimately the hardship of the work and the constant fear of being in the ‘enemy’s’ crosshairs.
Austin was our Jerusalem. Jenny and I had to decide that ultimately wherever God called us, was the place we would be. The strange part was…we had never trusted God in a decision of that magnitude….never. That time of decision was truly a God thing. To move us his direction, he affirmed us in the little things. People that we thought might be hurt the most…or call us crazy….supported us.
Nehemiah 11:2 The people commended all the men who volunteered to live in Jerusalem.
I am removed by a year and a half from that time of decision and God moving in my life. But I am still humbled by it, like it was yesterday.