Psalm 32:6-11

By John Grimm

It may be that the enticing aspect of the rapture is that we will be taken out of terrible situations.  However, God does not pick us up, sweep away the trouble, and then place us down again in the same place we had been.  It is true to say that God is our hiding place.  It is true that God keeps us while trouble is going on around us.

While God is keeping us during trouble, we hear cries of deliverance.  Other people, who also trust God, are gladly shouting praise to God.  It is possible to exult God during trouble.  We find that as God is faithful to us, we also can be faithful to him.

Can we continue to learn from the Lord the way we should go?  Can we heed his counsel, knowing God knows the very situation we are in?  As we give affirmative answers to these questions, we realize God’s steadfast love surrounds us.  Our hearts become upright as we trust God.  Then, we rejoice greatly!

Lord God, you are with us in our troubles.  You hide and preserve us.  We know that we can get through the trouble.  We praise you for enveloping us with your steadfast love as we trust in you.  You make us glad.  Thank you!  We praise you in the name of Jesus Christ for the deliverance you are giving us.  Amen.

Four Parts of Worship: Celebration

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

So, we’ve talked about what it means to gather ourselves in search of God, and we’ve talked about how God is consistently present through Scripture. What is an appropriate response to God’s presence?

A celebration! The third part of worship is like a thank-you, praise-you party thrown for God, where we declare the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer to be worthy of honor.

Again, it’s one of those reasons I like to put the declaration of God’s word up front as much as possible in a worship service. I think a lot of people struggle with worship because we don’t spend enough time rejoicing, and it’s hard to celebrate until we’ve really heard from God. When we fail to celebrate in worship, we miss out on the joy of being Christian, a joy available to us regardless of our circumstances.

I know—we may not always feel like rejoicing. We may have entered worship thinking about being poor, sick or lonely. We may be broken by our sins or feeling victimized by the sins of others. Those aren’t ideal situations, but our current circumstances brighten considerably when we put them in the light of what God has done for us through Jesus Christ.

You see such celebratory worship in the Old Testament. One example would be the story in 1 Chronicles 16:1-6, when David returned the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. And before these more formal acts, there were exuberant acts on the way to Jerusalem: sacrifices, singing, dancing and music.

Celebratory worship continues in the New Testament, particularly after the victorious nature of Christ’s work on the cross is made clear in the resurrection. We’re told in Colossians 3:16-17, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

God’s word begets gratitude, and with gratitude in our hearts, we sing and direct our celebration toward our audience, God. 

I know not everyone rejoices and celebrates in the same way, just as people will enjoy a party in different ways. I’ve always been more of a wallflower at a party. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy parties; it just means I’m not necessarily going to put a lampshade on my head.

You may be a fairly laid-back, reserved person in worship. A lot of people feel awkward jumping up and shouting “Amen!” while holding their hands up in the air. Thank God for the worshipers who do such things; they are a great help to worship in general.

If you’re reserved in nature, ask yourself this: Am I celebrating? Does that joy regarding Christ’s gift wash over my soul, at least as a quiet, tender experience?

Do I let the music take me back to the revelation of God I’ve just heard, connecting my emotions to my logic? Do I understand the prayers we lift up corporately are an open door to heaven? When I come to the table for communion, am I expecting to meet the one who will feed me for all eternity?

God calls you to such celebratory experiences whenever you stand before him in worship.

Lord, our loss of exuberant celebration is perhaps the greatest denial we suffer right now. Help us to better celebrate you in our private time and family time, and assure us of our return to a celebratory congregation soon. Amen.

Keep Reading

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

Psalm 149 (NLT)

Praise the Lord!

Sing to the Lord a new song.
    Sing his praises in the assembly of the faithful.

O Israel, rejoice in your Maker.
    O people of Jerusalem, exult in your King.
Praise his name with dancing,
    accompanied by tambourine and harp.
For the Lord delights in his people;
    he crowns the humble with victory.
Let the faithful rejoice that he honors them.
    Let them sing for joy as they lie on their beds.

What a lovely little psalm. There is singing and dancing, the air alive with the sound of instruments. Day and night, the people rejoice. The psalm continues, too!

Let the praises of God be in their mouths,
    and a sharp sword in their hands—
to execute vengeance on the nations
    and punishment on the peoples,
to bind their kings with shackles
    and their leaders with iron chains,
to execute the judgment written against them.
    This is the glorious privilege of his faithful ones.

Praise the Lord!

Hmmmm. Suddenly, Psalm 149 is a little less lovely. Swords, shackles and vengeance bring a kind of darkness to this psalm we might not have expected.

The Bible is full of sudden turns like this. A lot of devotionals and sermons deal with these startling disparities simply by stopping short, ending the selection of verses before the disturbance brought on by the new thought begins. I understand why—for the sake of brevity, and in an effort to get one clear point across without muddying the devotional or sermon too much, stopping short is sometimes necessary.

We still need, however, to learn to deal with these incongruities, so we are better equipped as believers to help seekers who naturally may be put off by such passages.

Perspective is important. Remember, these texts are very old, meaning they were written in a time when a lot of our ideas about what constitutes civilized behavior had yet to develop. The psalm we’re reading today is at least 2,500 years old, and maybe older.

Understanding this, we’re starting in the wrong place if we critique these texts from a modern viewpoint. Texts like our psalm carry within them what were at the time new revelations about how God’s people should relate to their creator and to one another.

Many of those ideas grew to become the basis of what we now think of as modern, civilized behavior. We should not be critical of the people who first began to comprehend revelations of God’s holiness and God’s desire to save a remnant from the effects of sin.

As Isaac Newton said, “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

When Jesus came on the scene centuries after this psalm to expand our understanding of God’s love and grace, he was not afraid to draw on what had been taught through his Jewish culture thus far. God is over all things and above all things. God redeems his people, and Jesus came as God in flesh to prove this point.

And yet, even in gentle Jesus’ teachings, it is clear that what is opposed to God ultimately will face God’s wrath. God has never wavered on that point.

Jesus used a metaphorical sword, and he expected us to pick it up and use it against the enemies of God. I am talking about speaking the truth of who God is and what God is doing through Jesus Christ to restore a broken world. This truth cuts through the political machinations and outright lies of the worldly nations.

This “sword of truth” imagery is most vivid in the final book of the Bible, Revelation, where the author has a vision of Christ completing his work in the world.

“Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True, for he judges fairly and wages a righteous war. His eyes were like flames of fire, and on his head were many crowns. A name was written on him that no one understood except himself. He wore a robe dipped in blood, and his title was the Word of God. The armies of heaven, dressed in the finest of pure white linen, followed him on white horses. From his mouth came a sharp sword to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod. He will release the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty, like juice flowing from a winepress. On his robe at his thigh was written this title: King of all kings and Lord of all lords.” (Revelation 19:11-16.)

The ancient Israelites felt called to take up their swords and impose shackles in obedience to God, delivering primitive lessons about holiness in what we now consider primitive times. We are called to do similar work with restorative words and sacrificial acts, following Jesus’ lead as the bringer of truth. And God’s truth shall reign.

Lord, thank you for the revelations you have given humanity about your nature since before recorded history began. May the truth of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior be evident to all very soon. Amen.