Daily Devotional; formerly Chaplains Corner

Discussion in 'Religious Discussions' started by ampaterry, Apr 24, 2011.

  1. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    Today is Pearl Harbor Day, so we’ll take a brief break in our pilgrimage to Jerusalem with the Psalms of Ascent.

    On this day in 1941, without provocation, Japan attacked the US Naval base in Pearl Harbor. That plunged the US into World War II.

    At the time bombs were falling on our soldiers and sailors in Hawaii, Dad was winning a high school public speaking contest with a well known speech entitled "Peace in our day". Shortly after that dad enlisted in the US Navy, and eventually became navigator on board an aircraft carrier in the Pacific Theater.

    His whole life changed that day, as did the lives of everyone else in the US. The entire nation pulled together to fight the enemy. Those who couldn't take up arms worked in factories to make the equipment to fight the war, or in the fields to bring in the food to feed the soldiers and sailors. Mom worked for a company that made the landing craft that landed our brave soldiers on the beaches in the Pacific. The entire nation geared up to fight the war in whatever way they could; almost everyone became involved in the war effort.

    There was a deep sense of outrage against the Japanese across the nation because they had attacked our people, destroyed our property, and invaded our territory, the islands across the Pacific. They had wakened a sleeping tiger and they soon felt that tiger's wrath.

    Psalm 83 could well describe how we as Christians should respond as we are attacked without provocation. Christian businesses are being targeted by the PC crowd because the owners have convictions based on God's Word. Individual Christians are being targeted because they dare to talk about Christ in the workplace, or even just wear a necklace with a cross. Attempts are being made to silence Christian counselors from helping people to overcome sin in their lives.

    The Christophobic crowd is attempting to outlaw the Christian principles the US was built on and wipe out or disrupt Christians as we meet in homes for prayer meetings and Bible studies. They are trying to expunge Godly influence in government as they demand that copies of the 10 Commandments be taken out of government buildings and prayer be eliminated from government meetings and that nativity scenes be removed from sight.

    They proclaim with their mouths coexistence, understanding, tolerance, but their actions show they are demanding just the opposite of those things: hatred, intolerance, and that they won't be happy until their ideas and way of life is imposed on everyone. They call the Christians bigots, but they themselves show the greatest signs of bigotry, labeling and libeling anyone who disagrees with them as some kind of phobe, intolerant, and racist.

    The lives of Christians, of Americans, across the nation have been changed completely because of these unprovoked attacks, and we, as Christians, should feel that same outrage that the US felt when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. We need to work together, and pray together to reclaim our countries (US and UK) for Christ.

    So we cry out to God as David did in Psalm 83 , "O God, do not remain quiet; Do not be silent and, O God, do not be still.
    2 For behold, Your enemies make an uproar, And those who hate You have exalted themselves.
    3 They make shrewd plans against Your people, And conspire together against Your treasured ones.
    4 They have said, “Come, and let us wipe them out as a nation, That the name of Israel
    (or God's people) be remembered no more.”
    5 For they have conspired together with one mind; Against You they make a covenant"


    They are not just attacking us. They are attacking God. They are poking a sleeping tiger and will, sooner or later, feel that tiger's wrath. The rest of that Psalm describes the tiger’s wrath, and the prayer in that Psalm is that God would either destroy them or convert them.

    15 So pursue them with Your tempest And terrify them with Your storm.
    16 Fill their faces with dishonor, That they may seek Your name, O Lord.
    17 Let them be ashamed and dismayed forever, And let them be humiliated and perish,
    18 That they may know that You alone, whose name is the Lord,
    Are the Most High over all the earth.


    May God bless us with the convictions we need, and the courage and ability to stand for those convictions, and stand together as God' people in doing that. May God give us fervency and faith as we pray that He would turn this country around, and watch for the ways He would use us to do so. Just as the entire nation got behind the war effort in 1941, so all Christians need to get behind this spiritual war effort with prayer, mutual support, and evangelism.
     
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  2. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    Psalm 122

    I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
    2 Our feet are standing Within your gates, O Jerusalem,
    3 Jerusalem, that is built As a city that is compact together;
    4 To which the tribes go up, even the tribes of the Lord—An ordinance for Israel—
    To give thanks to the name of the Lord.
    5 For there thrones were set for judgment, The thrones of the house of David.


    6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you.
    7 “May peace be within your walls, And prosperity within your palaces.”
    8 For the sake of my brothers and my friends, I will now say, “May peace be within you.”
    9 For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good.


    You can just about see a progression in these Psalms of Ascent. In Psalm 120 the Jew looks around where he is and complains about how he is surrounded by lies and liars. He is anticipating heading to Jerusalem for the Passover. Then in Psalm 121 he is kissing his wife and kids goodbye as he prays God’s blessing on him in his travels, and on his household that he is leaving behind, in God’s hands. Now Psalm 122 sees the cavalcade lined up and the leader is giving the command to march.

    Or maybe they have reached Jerusalem and instead of church bells calling the congregation together, the message filters back through the crowd, “It’s time to go to the Temple.”

    And as they go toward the temple, they pause and gaze around at the city itself. It’s a close-knit community, compact together. Now that could be good or bad. Get too many people together in a small area and tempers can flare out of control. Think of a spark and gunpowder. Or the community can pull together, and in the confined area the group becomes stronger than the individual parts. Think of a diamond, hard, beautiful, that has been formed by heat and pressure. Each atom takes its place in forming the structure of that diamond. A close knit community can respond quickly and completely to needs of individuals within that community.

    It is the focal point of a crowd of people coming together to worship God.

    Jerusalem is the place to get answers to questions about what is right and wrong. It’s the place to look to for leadership in the community, in the nation. The judgment thrones, the king’s thrones are there in Jerusalem.

    And the Jew found himself praying for peace within Jerusalem. That’s a good thing to pray for the seat of a nation’s power and authority. What kind of justice, what kind of leadership, would come out of a city where there was rioting, general disruption and disorder?

    That’s part of how we should be praying for Washington DC and for our state and city and county legislatures. We should be praying for peace, harmony, unity, and Godly direction. It’s the kind of thing Paul urged Timothy to pray for there in 1 Timothy 2: First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.

    It’s also something we should be praying for the churches we are part of, and for the leadership in these churches. Instead of getting bent out of shape over what color to paint the woodwork, or what kind of carpet to get, or who is on what rota, the church leadership needs to focus on its own spiritual health, then on the health of the church membership, then to go beyond that to how to improve the health and strength of the church members, how to help them learn to feed themselves from God’s Word.

    Ephesians 4 gives a list of church leadership types: 11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,

    Then it gives the reason those people are there. 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; The church leadership is there to equip, to prepare, to train the saints to do the work of the ministry. Just think of the people walking out the church door each week and the pastor and elders handing them a hammer or a drill or a hoe or a shovel or some other tool so they can do the task God has assigned them.

    And finally God gives the ultimate goal: 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. That’s a Jerusalem, compactly built, working together in unity and peace, with a common objective.

    How do you feel on Sunday when it’s time to go to church, or on Wednesday, or whenever they have other church gatherings? Is it just one more thing to do during the week, or is it a time to look forward to eagerly? Is church a fashion show and a social club or is church a time of mutual encouragement and blessing, of building up each other in the Lord? If the church leadership is doing its job, and if we are doing what God wants us to be doing, here’s the kind of thing that will be happening:

    Colossians 3 16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

    Then check out Hebrews 10 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

    Stimulate one another…think of a defibrillator that sends an electric shock into a person’s heart to start it beating. The Greek word is where we get “paroxysm” from. We give them a jumpstart on some project.

    Encouraging one another…that’s our old friend parakletos…the one that comes alongside to help; the comforter who puts his arm around you and helps to ease emotional pain; the coach or drill sergeant that pushes you until you think you will drop, then pushes you a little farther; the attorney for the defense who goes to bat for you. We are to be on the giving and receiving end of these things with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

    Both stimulating and encouraging each other takes careful thought…prayerful consideration.

    I rejoice when I see people here on the forum encouraging each other, praying for each other, using Scripture as the foundation for encouraging each other.

    May God richly bless each of us as we go about rejoicing to be with God’s people, as we see them growing in Christ, and as we see the peace of God’s unity of spirit in His people.
     
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  3. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    Psalm 123

    To You I lift up my eyes, O You who are enthroned in the heavens!
    2 Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master,
    As the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,
    So our eyes look to the Lord our God, Until He is gracious to us.

    3 Be gracious to us, O Lord, be gracious to us,
    For we are greatly filled with contempt.
    4 Our soul is greatly filled With the scoffing of those who are at ease,
    And with the contempt of the proud.

    Psalm 122 talked about getting to church. It’s time to go, they said, and they went. They found themselves standing in Jerusalem in the throng of people who had come to worship God.

    Now we are worshipping God.

    We look up to God, expectantly, the way a servant looks to his master. We don’t have servants and masters these days, but many of us have dogs, and you know how a dog watches his master, trustingly, carefully, lovingly; and at the hand signal, the nod, the word, and the dog is off ready to do whatever his master wants. So when we go to church, it should be with the attitude that says, OK, Father, I’m looking to You now; what do You want me to do today; what do You want me to do this week?

    And we watch, it says, until He is gracious to us. He graciously cares for us. And do we ever need His grace.

    For we are greatly filled with contempt.
    4 Our soul is greatly filled With the scoffing of those who are at ease,
    And with the contempt of the proud.

    We can be on the receiving or the giving end of that contempt.

    We can expect to be on the receiving end of that contempt. Jesus said in John 15 18 “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.

    When that happens, it really hurts deeply. It can burn deep down into our minds, our emotions when people openly show contempt for us. In a way that person showing contempt for us can becomes a focus of our minds. We can come to the point of measuring everything we do against what he would say or think. The hurt from that scoffing and contempt can fill our lives.

    It can be that they scoff at us because they are rich, we are poor; they have influence, we have none; they think they are big, and that we are small.

    So we need to get our focus off these puffed up proud people and we need to focus all our attention on God. We need to gaze fixedly on Him, the way a faithful servant does his master, the way a faithful dog does his master. We need to let Him fill our thoughts, our emotions, our lives, and displace those unpleasant proud scoffers. God will never scoff at us if we belong to Him. He will scoff at those who reject Him. We need His grace to see beyond the petty pride of those that scoff at us.

    It is possible for us to be on the giving end of that contempt, that scoffing.

    4 Our soul is greatly filled With the scoffing of those who are at ease,
    And with the contempt of the proud.

    Remember what Proverbs 30 says?

    7 Two things I asked of You, Do not refuse me before I die:
    8 Keep deception and lies far from me,
    Give me neither poverty nor riches;
    Feed me with the food that is my portion,
    9 That I not be full and deny You and say, “Who is the Lord?”
    Or that I not be in want and steal, And profane the name of my God.


    God warned Israel about this when they were in the wilderness back in Deuteronomy 8: 11 “Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes which I am commanding you today; 12 otherwise, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them, 13 and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and gold multiply, and all that you have multiplies, 14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

    Jesus said it’s easier for a camel to get through the eye of the needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God. Not impossible, but difficult. That’s because a rich person tends to trust his wealth, not God. We can get full, fat, and happy, contented, and lose sight of God, and look contemptuously down our well fleshed out noses at those poor little people down there and scoff at them.

    Before we can worship God, we need to get that attitude sorted. God hates pride, and if we have pride lurking in us, we need to deal with it or God will do it for us.

    The key to dealing with pride is thankfulness to God. We recognize that everything we have and everything we are and everything we do and achieve is because God has given it to us, God has made us the way He wants us to be, and God has enabled us to accomplish whatever we have done. When we recognize that He has made us what we are, and we could never have made it without Him, that’s the beginning of conquering pride, and with it that contempt for others, and the scoffing that goes with it.

    We need God’s grace to sort it out in our lives. We need to recognize God’s grace working in our lives and thank Him for it.

    May God bless us richly as we constantly look to Him and ask Him to be gracious to us.
     
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  4. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    Close Call
    Psalm 124
    “Had it not been the Lord who was on our side,” Let Israel now say,
    2 “Had it not been the Lord who was on our side When men rose up against us,
    3 Then they would have swallowed us alive, When their anger was kindled against us;
    4 Then the waters would have engulfed us, The stream would have swept over our soul;
    5 Then the raging waters would have swept over our soul.”


    "Whew!!! We dodged the bullet that time. That was close." How many times can we say that has happened to us in this last year? The temptation is to heave a great sigh of relief and settle back into whatever status quo we live in. But we need to do what happens in this Psalm. Give God the credit for our survival.

    Those pilgrims may have had a few close calls travelling from their villages to Jerusalem. Remember how they sang in faith Psalm 121? I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? 2 My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.

    Close calls certainly happened to Israel a few times. There was the time in Exodus when they had their backs up against the Red Sea and Pharaoh and his army were ready to pounce. God divided the sea, Israel marched through on dry ground; the Egyptian army followed in hot pursuit, the walls of water collapsed, destroying the entire army in one fell swoop. Another time, 2 Chronicles 32, the king of Assyria, Sennacherib, attacked Israel, but in answer to Hezekiah’s prayer, God destroyed the enemy army and Sennacherib went home to be assassinated by his own children. 1 Kings 19 is another record of that incident.

    David had similar experiences, when he was close to being wiped out. Remember that time he and his men were out on a raiding party, came home to find the enemy had raided his village and taken his and his men’s wives, children, livestock and possessions in 1 Samuel 30. God told him to chase the vandals down and recapture what had been taken. He did, and wiped out the enemy.

    Those were times when the enemy threatened to swallow up Israel whole, overrun the nation like a river floods the low-lying land around it, sweeping everything away in its path. But God intervened. God was on Israel’s side and saw to it that His people and His nation were preserved.

    There was the time when Nabal refused to provide vital supplies to David and his men at a crucial time. David swore to destroy Nabal (whose name means “Fool”), but God intervened through Abigail in 1 Samuel 25. God gave Nabal a stoke and died three days later. Had David gone through with his scheme of revenge, that would have been a victory for satan because David would have had the guilt of Nabal’s death on his hands. Then the stream would have swept over his soul.

    You see, there is physical threat, and there is spiritual threat. We can escape physical threat only to be drowned in spiritual threat. The world threatens us with persecution and prosecution if we don’t toe the PC line. So we need to be prepared for not only physical attack, but spiritual attack, lest the waters engulf us physically and the pressures from the streams of society sweep away our souls. Go with the flow and lose your soul.

    Jesus said in Mark 8 “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 35 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? 37 For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”

    God says in Romans 8 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?

    God says in Psalm 118 6 The Lord is for me; I will not fear; What can man do to me?
    7 The Lord is for me among those who help me; Therefore I will look with satisfaction on those who hate me.


    So we dodged the bullet. God pulled us out of that scrape. We must give thanks and credit to God, not ourselves and our forethought and our allies for the way He helped us. Sure, we need to do our bit to be prepared, but ultimately, our lives and well being and our souls are in God’s hands.

    6 Blessed be the Lord, Who has not given us to be torn by their teeth.
    7 Our soul has escaped as a bird out of the snare of the trapper;
    The snare is broken and we have escaped.
    8 Our help is in the name of the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.


    Alexander Peden was a Christian minister during the “killing times” in Scotland who had many remarkable escapes; the trapper’s snares were broken on a number of occasions. One such occasion is recorded here.

    As we approach the end of the year, think back on the times God has broken the snares in which we could have been trapped; the number of close calls we have had that God has pulled us through, and tell ourselves and others, with David, 8 Our help is in the name of the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.
     
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  5. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    Psalm 125 is the next of these Psalms of Ascent, the Psalms the Israelites sang as they anticipated the Passover Feast in Jerusalem. You could call these the Jewish Advent Psalms.

    Those who trust in the Lord Are as Mount Zion, which cannot be moved but abides forever.
    2 As the mountains surround Jerusalem, So the Lord surrounds His people
    From this time forth and forever.
    3 For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest upon the land of the righteous,
    So that the righteous will not put forth their hands to do wrong.

    4 Do good, O Lord, to those who are good And to those who are upright in their hearts.
    5 But as for those who turn aside to their crooked ways,
    The Lord will lead them away with the doers of iniquity.
    Peace be upon Israel.

    Check out the promises in this Psalm. These are things we need to claim for our own selves, and for our nations.

    Those who trust in the Lord Are as Mount Zion, which cannot be moved but abides forever.
    You remember that conversation between Jesus and Peter there in Matthew 16. Jesus did a snap poll: Who do people say I am? The disciples gave the opinions of the general public at that time. The people said Jesus was one of the prophets. Then Jesus asked who the disciples thought He is. Peter said “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.

    Peter had put his trust in the Lord, in Jesus, and said You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. People who do that have a firm foundation for their lives that will never be shaken. It’s on this rock solid conviction that Jesus builds His Church. Building our lives on God’s Word, His promises, His warnings and laws will give us a foundation in our lives that cannot be shifted. God never changes. Jesus said in Matthew 24 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. There is no outdate on the warranties God places on His promises.

    People do change. So do their ideas of what is right and wrong; good and bad. Generally people do whatever seems right to them at the time, or what is in their best interests or whatever feels good at the time or what everyone else is doing. So we get fads in fashion, in technology, in science, in laws, in morals, and not all of those fads are good. Trusting in public opinion is like building a sand castle. It lasts until the tide changes or someone steps on it.

    The second line gives a second promise. 2 As the mountains surround Jerusalem, So the Lord surrounds His people
    The mountains around Jerusalem protected the city from the worst of the weather. They acted as a kind of barrier to invaders, making it harder to attack the city. Satan accused God of doing just that with Job in Job 1 10 Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.

    Psalm 5 says 11But let all who take refuge in You be glad, Let them ever sing for joy;
    And may You shelter them, That those who love Your name may exult in You.
    12 For it is You who blesses the righteous man, O Lord, You surround him with favor as with a shield.


    And then there is one of my favorite promises (I have a lot of them. Each of them is for a particular purpose, just as we have tools in our tool boxes and guns in our homes for particular purposes)…

    Isaiah 26 3 Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.

    There is one more phrase in that promise in the second line… From this time forth and forever.
    Did I say there is no outdate on God’s promises? When He made that covenant with Abraham it was to be an everlasting covenant. Jesus said in Matthew 28 20 … and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

    Hebrews 7 says 25 Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

    No government can ever make that claim. No business can ever make that claim. No insurance policy can ever make that claim. No security agency or police department or any other human agency can ever make the claim that they can put an ironclad wall of protection around us 24/7/365. Only God can do that.

    We’ll have to look at this Psalm some more tomorrow, God willing.

    Meantime, a couple of take-aways.

    1. We can get our security from one of two sources. God, or man. While we can see man and can’t see God, while we can hear man’s nice sincere sounding words, man can never be completely trusted. He can be bought, corrupted, side lined one way or another, outsmarted, or he can be overcome in some other way.

    2. We can’t see God, but He is there, and He speaks to us through His Word, the Bible. He is eternal, He cannot be overcome in any way, and He keeps His Word and His promises. We can never get out from under His care and watchful eye.

    3. When we put our trust in God we come under the umbrella of His protection and He won’t let us down.

    4. If you haven’t put your trust in God the same way Peter did, with that rock-solid confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, ask yourself this: Is there any good reason why not?

    May God bless us as we anchor ourselves and our lives to God, make Him the foundation of our lives. He’ll never shift.
     
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  6. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    Psalm 125 continued

    Those who trust in the Lord Are as Mount Zion, which cannot be moved but abides forever.
    2 As the mountains surround Jerusalem, So the Lord surrounds His people
    From this time forth and forever.
    3 For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest upon the land of the righteous,
    So that the righteous will not put forth their hands to do wrong.

    4 Do good, O Lord, to those who are good And to those who are upright in their hearts.
    5 But as for those who turn aside to their crooked ways,
    The Lord will lead them away with the doers of iniquity.
    Peace be upon Israel.

    There are three promises in this Psalm. We glanced at two of them yesterday:

    1. If we trust in the Lord we cannot be moved, shaken, spindled or mutilated. We have eternal life. We have staying power. We will abide forever.

    2. God surrounds us with a security detail that can never be breached. Sure our bodies might get hurt, but our souls, the “real us”, have better security than the gold in Fort Knox or than the President has because God surrounds us with His favor. Psalm 5 says: 12 For it is You who blesses the righteous man, O Lord, You surround him with favor as with a shield.

    Those two promises lead into the third promise in this Psalm: 3 For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest upon the land of the righteous, So that the righteous will not put forth their hands to do wrong.

    God will never let the scepter of wickedness stay on the land of the righteous. It may come for a little while, but it will never permanently rest there. Israel had some pretty bad kings over the course of its history, and some of them lived quite a long time. We thought the last eight years were bad, but think of Israel having to live under Ahab for twenty two years. But these bad kings always died or were killed. One of the things these kings did was to lead the nation into sin—worshipping false gods, immorality of various kinds, and so on. Ahab and his queen Jezebel made it their practice to kill off anyone who worshipped God, instead of following the state religion of Baal worship. But there were always righteous people—people who refused to go with the flow—who kept to God’s ways of doing things. 1 Kings 18 says 3 … (Now Obadiah feared the Lord greatly; 4 for when Jezebel destroyed the prophets of the Lord, Obadiah took a hundred prophets and hid them by fifties in a cave, and provided them with bread and water.)

    These were the righteous people who would not do wrong. Once these kings were out of the way, and a good king was in office, he led the country back to God. God will never turn His back on His people.

    Sure, we may be physically hammered from time to time. The Christians in the Middle East are under constant attack by muslims. Christians in the western world are under attack by any number of Christophobic groups. But we have a refuge in God that they can never penetrate. They might hurt our bodies, even kill them; they might try to punish us, fine us, imprison us, but as God says, they can never touch out souls. Jesus tells the Christians in Revelation 2 10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

    Ten days. There is a beginning, and there is an end to the persecution. God does put an end to that persecution. We just need to hang on. We need to know, to understand, to trust that God will stop it, So that the righteous will not put forth their hands to do wrong.

    God has plans lined up for those who try to lead His people astray, and for those who cave in to the pressure: 5 But as for those who turn aside to their crooked ways, The Lord will lead them away with the doers of iniquity. World War II had its quislings who collaborated with the Nazis; there are people who call themselves Christians who are quislings that collaborate with the PC brigade. They were punished for trying to compromise with the enemy.

    Doesn’t that sound like what Jesus said in Matthew 10 32 “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. 33 But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.

    2 Timothy 2 says 12 If we endure, we will also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He also will deny us;

    So we pray two things.

    1. 4 Do good, O Lord, to those who are good And to those who are upright in their hearts. We ask God to bless us, to reward us, to keep us in His big strong capable hands as we stick to our guns, as we hold out against the world’s pressure to compromise, to conform to the world’s way of thinking.

    2. And we ask for peace, God’s peace, on our nations. Peace be upon Israel.

    That’s what the angels proclaimed the night Jesus was born: Luke 2 14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

    Generations of people have left off that last phrase. We focus on the “Peace on earth” at Christmas, and forget about “among men with whom He is pleased”. Not everyone pleases God. Not everyone will have God’s lasting peace. Only those who please God will have this peace that God speaks of here.

    The only way to find real peace is to find favor with God. The only way to find favor with God is to become one of His children, and that is only through faith in Jesus, His Son. Jesus said in John 14 6 … “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.

    May God bless us richly with His peace as we stick close to Him.
     
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  7. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    Psalm 126

    When the Lord brought back the captive ones of Zion, We were like those who dream.
    2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter And our tongue with joyful shouting;
    Then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”
    3 The Lord has done great things for us; We are glad.

    4 Restore our captivity, O Lord, As the streams in the South.
    5 Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting.
    6 He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed,
    Shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.

    Psalm 125 describes the permanence, the solidity, of our relationship with God. The Lord, it says, surrounds His people like the mountains surround Jerusalem. We cannot be moved; we abide forever.

    But Psalm 126 describes people returning from captivity. The population of Jerusalem had been removed. They had been taken prisoner and moved out lock stock and barrel to Babylon, where, as Psalm 137 says, they sat and wept bitterly at the loss of freedom, possessions, loved ones, their homes, and national pride. God had cleared them out in judgment because they had turned their backs on Him. He sent them down to Babylon the same way a jeweler puts gold or silver into a furnace to burn, to refine, the impurities out of the metal. God sent them into the fires of slavery in Babylon to burn the sin out of their lives and lifestyles, to bring them back to Himself.

    Then the king of Babylon set them free, returned them to Israel. You can read about that in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.

    We are glad. Excited to return home? That doesn’t begin to describe it. They were wandering around in dazed shock, in a dream, at the wonderful news. They were dancing in the streets. They were shouting with joyful laughter, pounding each other on the back, hugging, weeping tears of joy. Think of the celebrations that went on at the end of World War 1 and 2. Think of the way everyone jumps up and shouts and cheers when their team scores a touchdown and multiply that by about a thousand.

    Then look at the reaction of those watching. Then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” You could say that even the news media had to admit that God had done something great for Israel.

    And that is something to note. God does great things to call attention to Himself. He wants the nations to recognize Him, to glorify Him. There will come a time when all peoples of the earth will bow down to Him in worship, voluntarily, or involuntarily. Much better, methinks, that they do it voluntarily. He does these great things for His people so that others can see and think, “Wow. If God does this for them, can He do it for me? I want to be one of God’s people.”

    Once again, this was one of the Psalms of Ascent, one of the Psalms the Israelites sang as they were going up to Jerusalem for the Passover; or they sang these Psalms while they were celebrating the Passover. They took time to think back over the year about the great things God had done for them as a nation, and for themselves during the last year and over their lifetimes. And to praise God for those things.

    We are in the middle of this season looking forward to Christmas, a time for celebration. Just as the Israelites did, we should think back over the last year and back over our lifetimes and recall the things God has done for us. How has He rescued us? How has He protected us? How has he pulled us out of whatever pit we were in? How has He blessed us? What were the things He did in our lives over the last year?

    Then pass the word. Imagine sitting around the Christmas dinner table, each person there describing something God has done for them in the last year. That would surely be a lot better than arguing over politics. Those who are not yet Christians? They could be like the nations in this Psalm. They could well agree “The Lord has done great things for them.” And we agree. The Lord has indeed done great things for us.

    You know, Christmas can be overwhelming with all of the emphasis the world places on “things”—getting and giving presents, focusing on trying to have a good time and eating and parties and so on. But all that is superficial. The experience ends, people go home, the decorations come down, the gifts get used, break or put on a shelf and forgotten about. Some gifts are better put in a “white elephant” box.

    Christmas becomes a hollow celebration, not a hallowed celebration.

    But think on the gifts God has given us. Think about how 3 The Lord has done great things for us; Those are the things that won’t ever break or wear out or go out of fashion. They are useful, just what we need, and never go into a “white elephant” box. When we think about them, we can say with the Israelites, We are glad.

    Oh, “glad” is such a limp word. I think of someone sitting quietly in a chair, smiling quietly to themselves with a nice warm feeling inside. Sure, that’s part of that meaning, but the Hebrew word means jumping up and down for joy.

    We celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas. The greatest thing God has done for us is to make a way for us to come out of our own Babylon, out of our own slavery to sin by sending His Son into this world to make a bridge between us and God. Jesus said in John 8 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.

    So make part of the Christmas celebrations telling each other the great things the Lord has done for us.
     
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  8. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    Psalm 126

    When the Lord brought back the captive ones of Zion, We were like those who dream.
    2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter And our tongue with joyful shouting;
    Then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”
    3 The Lord has done great things for us; We are glad.

    4 Restore our captivity, O Lord, As the streams in the South.
    5 Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting.
    6 He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed,
    Shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.

    Not all of the people were released from Babylon to come home to Jerusalem and Israel. Some were forced to stay behind. You notice that when you read through Ezra and Nehemiah. Some were in trusted positions in Babylon. Nehemiah was an official in the king’s palace, cupbearer to the king.

    God had a reason for that. He laid it on Nehemiah’s heart to appeal to the king to send him to Jerusalem to complete the rebuilding work that had been started there but had ground to a halt. The repatriated Jews needed fresh leadership and God provided that through Nehemiah as the king listened to him and sent him home with a blank check to finish the work.

    That’s part of what the second half of this Psalm is about. 4 Restore our captivity, O Lord, As the streams in the South.

    Those in Jerusalem are asking God to restore those still in captivity to their homeland. They are still one people—God’s people, and some have been set free; some are still in captivity.

    So it is when we become Christians. We have been set free from slavery to whatever had us enslaved—the oft used term is “sin and death”. And that is what Paul talks about when he says in Galatians 5:1 It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.

    Now, we have become Christians; we have been set free. John Bunyan wrote a book called Pilgrim’s Progress. In it he describes how Christian, the main character, was carrying a heavy pack that weighed him down every step of the way he was travelling through life. He could not get rid of it no matter how hard he tried. Then he came to the cross and that heavy pack came off him. He had been freed from his heavy burden of sin and guilt. We are set free when we become Christians.

    But what about the rest of our people in our lives? It’s selfish of us to enjoy our freedom and not give a thought to others. They have been left behind in Babylon, still slaves to the life of this world, the appetites, the activities, the guilt those things bring. The things the world calls fun bring pseudo joy. They are superficial, hollow, never really satisfy, never last long.

    So we pray with Israel, that God would restore the freedom to the rest of our people—our relatives, our friends. We pray for them. We sow the seeds of God’s Word in their lives. We live as God’s lights in their world.

    And as we are sowing that seed of God’s Word into their lives, it often is in tears as we see them wasting their lives on fluff, building up treasures on earth where rust and moth destroy and thieves break through and steal, rather than on solid, lasting achievement, building up treasure in Heaven that cannot be destroyed or stolen (Matthew 6).

    But God makes a promise here: 5 Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting. 6 He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed, Shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.

    If we are faithful in sowing the seeds of God’s Word into people’s lives, God will cause it to grow and produce a bountiful crop. Remember the parable Jesus told about the sower in Matthew 13? The end result of the seed sown in fertile soil was this: 8 And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.

    God promised in Isaiah 55 that 11 So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.

    Sure, we may not feel like talking God’s Word with people all the time. We may be sad at times because of personal tragedy, because we are ill, or don’t feel up to it for one reason or another, or maybe they just insulted us somehow. Paul talked often about how he had a hard time of it as he was ministering to the people in the various churches he worked with, but he also talked about the joy he had when he looked back on the fruit of his work, at the new Christians that were growing an multiplying and spreading God’s good news around them. He was bringing his sheaves with him.

    God said in 1 Peter 3 that we should be ready to sow that seed whenever the opportunity arises, whether we feel like it or not, whether they deserve to hear it or not: 14 But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, 15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; 16 and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.

    So, as we go about faithfully sowing the seeds of God’s Word into the lives of people, who are left behind in slavery to sin and death in the Babylon of this world, we can be assured that God will grant us a wonderful harvest in due time.
     
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  9. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

    Joined:
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    Psalm 126

    When the Lord brought back the captive ones of Zion, We were like those who dream.
    2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter And our tongue with joyful shouting;
    Then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”
    3 The Lord has done great things for us; We are glad.

    4 Restore our captivity, O Lord, As the streams in the South.
    5 Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting.
    6 He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed,
    Shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.

    Not all of the people were released from Babylon to come home to Jerusalem and Israel. Some were forced to stay behind. You notice that when you read through Ezra and Nehemiah. Some were in trusted positions in Babylon. Nehemiah was an official in the king’s palace, cupbearer to the king.

    God had a reason for that. He laid it on Nehemiah’s heart to appeal to the king to send him to Jerusalem to complete the rebuilding work that had been started there but had ground to a halt. The repatriated Jews needed fresh leadership and God provided that through Nehemiah as the king listened to him and sent him home with a blank check to finish the work.

    That’s part of what the second half of this Psalm is about. 4 Restore our captivity, O Lord, As the streams in the South.

    Those in Jerusalem are asking God to restore those still in captivity to their homeland. They are still one people—God’s people, and some have been set free; some are still in captivity.

    So it is when we become Christians. We have been set free from slavery to whatever had us enslaved—the oft used term is “sin and death”. And that is what Paul talks about when he says in Galatians 5:1 It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.

    Now, we have become Christians; we have been set free. John Bunyan wrote a book called Pilgrim’s Progress. In it he describes how Christian, the main character, was carrying a heavy pack that weighed him down every step of the way he was travelling through life. He could not get rid of it no matter how hard he tried. Then he came to the cross and that heavy pack came off him. He had been freed from his heavy burden of sin and guilt. We are set free when we become Christians.

    But what about the rest of our people in our lives? It’s selfish of us to enjoy our freedom and not give a thought to others. They have been left behind in Babylon, still slaves to the life of this world, the appetites, the activities, the guilt those things bring. The things the world calls fun bring pseudo joy. They are superficial, hollow, never really satisfy, never last long.

    So we pray with Israel, that God would restore the freedom to the rest of our people—our relatives, our friends. We pray for them. We sow the seeds of God’s Word in their lives. We live as God’s lights in their world.

    And as we are sowing that seed of God’s Word into their lives, it often is in tears as we see them wasting their lives on fluff, building up treasures on earth where rust and moth destroy and thieves break through and steal, rather than on solid, lasting achievement, building up treasure in Heaven that cannot be destroyed or stolen (Matthew 6).

    But God makes a promise here: 5 Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting. 6 He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed, Shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.

    If we are faithful in sowing the seeds of God’s Word into people’s lives, God will cause it to grow and produce a bountiful crop. Remember the parable Jesus told about the sower in Matthew 13? The end result of the seed sown in fertile soil was this: 8 And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.

    God promised in Isaiah 55 that 11 So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.

    Sure, we may not feel like talking God’s Word with people all the time. We may be sad at times because of personal tragedy, because we are ill, or don’t feel up to it for one reason or another, or maybe they just insulted us somehow. Paul talked often about how he had a hard time of it as he was ministering to the people in the various churches he worked with, but he also talked about the joy he had when he looked back on the fruit of his work, at the new Christians that were growing an multiplying and spreading God’s good news around them. He was bringing his sheaves with him.

    God said in 1 Peter 3 that we should be ready to sow that seed whenever the opportunity arises, whether we feel like it or not, whether they deserve to hear it or not: 14 But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, 15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; 16 and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.

    So, as we go about faithfully sowing the seeds of God’s Word into the lives of people, who are left behind in slavery to sin and death in the Babylon of this world, we can be assured that God will grant us a wonderful harvest in due time.
     
  10. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    Psalm 127

    This is another of the Psalms of Ascent. The Israelites would have been singing this as they left home for Jerusalem, or once they were in Jerusalem.

    It starts out

    Unless the Lord builds the house, They labor in vain who build it;

    God must be at the foundation of every endeavor we get involved in, whether it’s building our families, our businesses, or our nations. If these are not built using God’s principles, they will fail sooner or later. History is littered with the ruins of civilizations, of nations, that turned their backs on God’s laws. The welfare rolls are bursting with the ruins of families that have either never heard of God’s laws, or have rejected them. Bankruptcy courts are kept busy with businesses that tried to succeed without following God’s principles of finance. If you want a graphic illustration of laboring in vain, read through Ecclesiastes. The recurring phrases are “Vanity, vanity. All is vanity”, and “Under the sun”. Solomon goes through all kinds of projects that people can become involve in, thinks them through carefully, and finds that they are all like chasing the wind, if they are done under the sun, without God.

    But God promised Israel time and again throughout His Word that if they obeyed His commands they would prosper and live long in the land God gave them. That was true for individual families and for villages and for the nation as a whole, and it’s still true today. If we follow God’s commands, His laws, His ways, He will bless us in the work we are doing.

    We can see evidence all around us of the next line of this Psalm.

    Unless the Lord guards the city, The watchman keeps awake in vain.

    We’ve seen terrorist attacks, active shooters, and other kinds of violence that got through the net of security all too often. The alphabet agencies do their surveillance thing. They monitor our electronic communications, our phone calls, internet activity, even our trash; they can track our movements on foot, in cars; they can watch our money transactions, but somehow the criminals find ways to evade them and commit their crimes.

    But God can cause these criminals to have accidents; He can turn a spotlight on them when they least expect it. He can turn their plans upside down in an instant. 2 Kings 7 gives one example of how God put an entire army to flight in the middle of the night. The Aramean army had laid siege to Samaria and the people had run out of food. Four lepers decided it was better to be prisoners of war in the enemy camp than to starve to death so they slipped out of the city and went over to the enemy camp and found it empty because 6 … the Lord had caused the army of the Arameans to hear a sound of chariots and a sound of horses, even the sound of a great army, … 7 Therefore they arose and fled in the twilight, and left their tents and their horses and their donkeys, even the camp just as it was, and fled for their life.

    Psalm 127 goes on. We need to keep the balance in our lives between work rest and family.
    2 It is vain for you to rise up early, To retire late, To eat the bread of painful labors;
    For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.

    How many families have broken up because one or both parents were so focused on their work that they neglected their home life, their spouses and children. Cat Stevens had that song out years ago, “Cat’s in the Cradle” that describes how a father was so tied up in his work that he neglected his son. He was always too busy. I’ve seen people who were struggling with work, trying to take night classes so they could get a better job to provide better for their family, and they were having marital problems because they couldn’t spare time to be with their families.

    God gave us a law about getting rest in Exodus 20. He said 8 “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, …

    And then it says God set the pattern for us: 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.

    That’s why it’s so important to keep the balance between work and rest and family. Psalm 127 talks about family, children.

    3 Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward.

    Our children are gifts, rewards, from God. Now. I have certificates I have earned and special presents that special people have given me. These stay in special places, and get special treatment. They are important because of where they came from. Our children are gifts to us. God has given us these gifts, entrusted them to us to take care of, to teach, to train. God expects us to launch these gifts, these children, out into life at some point.

    4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth.

    Get the picture in your mind’s eye of an archer. He’s nocked an arrow and has the bow drawn to full length, aiming carefully. He releases the arrow, it flies straight and true to the target.

    Proverbs 22 says 6 Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.

    “in the way he should go”…The Hebrew says “according to his way”. In other words, each child is different. Each child has his own strengths, weaknesses, aptitudes, and a wise parent will learn what those are, cultivate the strengths, shore up the weaknesses, and develop the aptitudes.

    The result?

    5 How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them;
    They will not be ashamed When they speak with their enemies in the gate.

    We can point with pride at our children whom we have shot out of our homes and are flying straight and true to their targets.

    A strong nation is built up of strong communities. Strong communities are built up of strong families. Strong families are built on the foundation of God’s principles and laws. God builds the house, protects the city, and builds the nation.
     
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  11. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    Psalm 128 is another of the Psalms of Ascent. This time the Israelites are thinking about life at home, and what it takes to make a harmonious household. These Jews looked forward to gatherings in Jerusalem during the Passover feast the same way we look forward to family gatherings at Christmas.

    Christmas is coming, and with it, for many of us, come family gatherings. Sometimes these gatherings are better than others. They can be like the family gatherings depicted in "The Little House on the Prairie" with everyone helping out and getting along together just fine, working together as a team. Each member of the family does what he can to get dinner ready and there is real harmony in the household.

    Or these family gatherings may resemble the "Family Feud". Each person is focused on himself, waiting for someone else to get on with the work and complaining bitterly when they don't get what they want when they want it. They blame each other because things don't go smoothly. Shouting matches and arguments and squabbles mark the day. That is not how God wants things to work out.

    His description of a harmonious family is described in Psalm 128.

    "How blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, Who walks in His ways."

    The first stage in having a peaceful, fun family time together is to focus not on ourselves but on God. We need to "fear", revere, honor, respect God in our lives and in the lives of each of our family members. When we "walk in His ways" we are practicing the things He teaches us out of His Word.

    "2 When you shall eat of the fruit of your hands, You will be happy and it will be well with you."

    That's the picture of a husband and father coming in after a hard day's work, washing up and relaxing with his family. He can enjoy the fruit of his hands, his work, as he catches up on what has been happening with his wife and his children during the day. In the agricultural society of the day when this was written he might have brought in some of the produce from his fields for dinner that night. In today's culture, we go to the store and buy food with the money we have earned at our jobs.

    "3 Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine Within your house,"

    His wife has been busy with her domestic tasks, working just as hard as her husband. Proverbs 31 describes the kind of "fruitful vine" activities she is involved in, and it was much more than just cooking and sewing and cleaning house. She was a business woman in her own right.

    Then they gather round the table for dinner, dad, mom, and the children.

    "Your children like olive plants Around your table."

    Olive plants. They produce olives that are nourishing, produce olive oil that's good for all kinds of things, and can provide shelter from the sun on a hot day. So the children make their own valuable contribution to the family gathering. I was thinking about this back awhile, how we kids used to sit around the table for meals. I found a small olive tree and sent it to dad and mom along with a family picture with this Psalm under it. (It was an artificial plant--low maintenance because dad is not particularly into horticulture. In fact his thumbs are more brown than green. :) ) It sits on his table where he can see it and remember family times together. And he prays for us.

    "4 Behold, for thus shall the man be blessed Who fears the Lord."

    The beginning of harmony in the family is with a husband and father who has his own life in harmony with God.

    "5 The Lord bless you from Zion, And may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life.
    6 Indeed, may you see your children’s children. Peace be upon Israel!"


    Families are the building blocks of a community, and communities are the building blocks of a nation. When families are in harmony with God, He can freely bless the families, the communities, and the nation with peace. It's a lasting blessing and peace, that passes on down through the generations as children learn from their parents, grow up, and pass it on to their children. But it starts with us, as husbands and fathers, "fearing the Lord and walking in His ways".

    May God bless us with happy, harmonious family times together this Christmas.
     
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  12. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    Psalm 129

    This is one of those “imprecatory” Psalms. It’s a Psalm calling God’s judgment down on God’s enemies.

    It is also one of the Psalms of Ascent. This is something the Jews did as they worshipped God during the Passover: they considered how they should deal with those who hate them because those people also hate God.

    And we as Christians have plenty of enemies in this world because those who hate us hate God. We see it in many instances. Towns are forced to remove Nativity scenes, people demand that crosses be removed from public places such as cemeteries and war memorials, even Christmas trees. Our freedom of speech is being taken away because we are not allowed to speak freely of Christ, of sin, of God’s judgment on sin, and how Jesus came into the world to live among us and die on the cross to take the penalty for our sins on Himself. Christian organizations and professionals are being targeted for harassment and prosecution. Christian refugees are being forced to the end of the line for admission to safe countries.

    Maybe we don’t feel the heat of persecution ourselves at the moment, but God’s Church in other parts of the world is under severe stress. We see it in the increasing emphasis on cutting Christ out of Christmas, saying things like “Season’s Greetings” and having festivals of lights or winter festivals, but not Christmas.

    So we can sing along with the Israelites

    “Many times they have persecuted me from my youth up,” Let Israel now say,
    2 “Many times they have persecuted me from my youth up;


    Jesus forewarned us of this kind of treatment when He said in John 15 18 “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.

    But God gives us and His Church staying power, endurance, steadfastness. Remember, that’s one of the qualities we need to develop in our lives from 2 Peter 1: 5-7.
    The Psalm says
    Yet they have not prevailed against me.
    3 “The plowers plowed upon my back; They lengthened their furrows.”
    4 The Lord is righteous; He has cut in two the cords of the wicked.


    Plowed upon my back? Well, Paul said in 2 Corinthians 11 24 Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, He’s not the only one who has been whipped or tortured for his relationship with Christ. Not by a long shot. Today, in the western world, we don’t whip people for their crimes, but they are subject to public humiliation and they can be thrown in prison or be stripped of their assets.

    Jesus told us to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us, but that doesn’t stop us from asking God to avenge us.

    We are God’s representatives here in the world. We give these enemies of God a chance to respond to God or reject Him by showing them the same love that God showed us when we were His enemies. If they respond, all well and good. We have won people into God’s Kingdom. If they reject the message of God’s Love through us, and refuse to repent and respond to Him, they have brought their own judgment on their own heads.

    5 May all who hate Zion Be put to shame and turned backward;
    6 Let them be like grass upon the housetops, Which withers before it grows up;
    7 With which the reaper does not fill his hand, Or the binder of sheaves his bosom;
    8 Nor do those who pass by say,
    “The blessing of the Lord be upon you; We bless you in the name of the Lord.”


    Their turn is coming. Their lives will be like the sick, desiccated grass that grows on rooftops and never amounts to anything that counts. If anything, it’s fit for tinder for a fire. And nobody will ever ask God’s blessing on them. 2 John says 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; 11 for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.

    Paul had these words of warning to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4: 14 Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. 15 Be on guard against him yourself, for he vigorously opposed our teaching.

    May God bless us with the absolute certainty that no matter how bad things seem to be for us, we are on the winning side. Remember Romans 8: 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?

    Remember Psalm 118
    6 The Lord is for me; I will not fear; What can man do to me?
    7 The Lord is for me among those who help me;
    Therefore I will look with satisfaction on those who hate me.


    This message may sound discordant in the Christmas season, when everyone likes to think about “peace on earth, goodwill toward men”, but this gives us solid grounds for having peace in ourselves. We know that God is in control, even of those who hate us, and their fate is in His hands. We can afford to love those who hate us, because one way or another God will deal with them.
     
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  13. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    Psalm 130

    Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord.
    2 Lord, hear my voice! Let Your ears be attentive To the voice of my supplications.
    3 If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?
    4 But there is forgiveness with You, That You may be feared.

    5 I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait, And in His word do I hope.
    6 My soul waits for the Lord More than the watchmen for the morning;
    Indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning.
    7 O Israel, hope in the Lord; For with the Lord there is lovingkindness,
    And with Him is abundant redemption.
    8 And He will redeem Israel From all his iniquities.

    This is another of the Psalms of Ascent that the Jews sang on their way to Jerusalem for the Passover feast, or in Jerusalem during the festivities. It was part of their Advent. Do you remember the significance of that feast? The Passover feast was in memory of the time God passed over their homes there in Egypt. He killed off all the firstborn in Egypt in every home except for those homes that had the blood of a lamb smeared on their doorposts. It was looking forward to the coming of Jesus, called the Lamb of God, whose blood took away the sins of the world.

    Part of that celebration involved repentance, asking God’s forgiveness for sin, and this Psalm is part of that asking forgiveness. It’s not a generalized “we and us” asking forgiveness, but a deeply personal “I, me, and my”. I’m looking at myself in the mirror of God’s Word, seeing my woeful shortcomings, and asking God to clean me up. Out of the depths of my guilty heart I look up and see God’s lifeline and try to grasp it.

    Or perhaps it is out of the depths of despair. This time of year people are naturally prone to depression. Days are short, there is reduced sunlight. We may have unmet expectations that discourage us and throw us into a black mood. Or too many people and too much noise and activity drain us of emotional energy.

    Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord.
    2 Lord, hear my voice! Let Your ears be attentive To the voice of my supplications.

    Out of the depths of my guilt, out of the depths of my despair, I’m crying out to God like a drowning man calls for help.

    3 If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?
    4 But there is forgiveness with You, That You may be feared.

    Do we deserve His lifeline? No way. Romans 3 says 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

    We see protesting people demanding justice all the time. If they got real justice, they would be condemned outright. No. Instead we need to ask for God’s mercy, His forgiveness. Lamentations 3 says 22 The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.

    His mercy, His compassion, His forgiveness, is the lifeline we cry out for from the depths. And God showed His compassion on us by sending us a Lamb, Jesus Christ, to take the penalty for our sins on Himself so we would not have to suffer that penalty ourselves.

    5 I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait, And in His word do I hope.
    6 My soul waits for the Lord More than the watchmen for the morning;
    Indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning.

    Many of you have been on night watch. I have worked night shifts. We watch the clock anxiously waiting for those clock hands to creep ever so slowly to the time we will be relieved. We watch the eastern skyline, looking for the first signs of dawn.

    Well, Israel was anxiously watching and waiting and hoping for the Lord over many years, until Jesus read from the book of Isaiah in that synagogue in Luke 4. 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovery of sight to the blind, To set free those who are oppressed, 19 To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”… 21 And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

    Israel looked forward to the coming of the Lamb of God. We look back on it. But now, in much the same way, we wait for Jesus to return. He made a promise to us and He is as good as His Word. He made a promise to Israel that He would come, and He did; He made a promise to us that He will return, and He will. We hope in His word. That hope is more than “Oh I hope it will happen. Chances are it won’t, but it sure would be nice if it did” kind of thing. I could hope I win the Publiisher’s Clearing House sweepstakes; the overwhelming probability is that it will never happen.

    Hope in God’s Word is different. Hebrews 11 starts out Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the men of old gained approval. Hope in God’s word is an assurance, a conviction. We hope the sun will come up, and sure as day follows night, the sun does come up. God will do what He says He will do, and we can take that to the bank.

    7 O Israel, hope in the Lord; For with the Lord there is lovingkindness,
    And with Him is abundant redemption.
    8 And He will redeem Israel From all his iniquities.

    What’s good for each one of us is good for all of God’s people. He can, and He does pull us out of whatever depths we are in. He has more than enough grace, forgiveness, and love for all of us. With Him there is abundant redemption.

    God said in Joshua 1 5 … I will not fail you or forsake you.

    Take that to the bank. Grab that lifeline and never let go.
     
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  14. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    Psalm 131
    O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty;
    Nor do I involve myself in great matters, Or in things too difficult for me.
    2 Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;
    Like a weaned child rests against his mother, My soul is like a weaned child within me.
    3 O Israel, hope in the Lord From this time forth and forever.


    Of all people, David wrote this Psalm. He was the one who fought off the lion and the bear from his flock. He was the one who killed Goliath and saved Israel from a costly and humiliating defeat at the hands of the Philistines. He had been called into Saul’s presence to soothe him with music when the king was in a bad mood. He had been promoted from humble shepherd boy to being in the palace daily, right beside the king. And to top it off, he was the one Samuel had anointed with oil to become the next king.

    He was the one that the people praised so highly. 1 Samuel 18 says 6 It happened as they were coming, when David returned from killing the Philistine, that the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with joy and with musical instruments. 7 The women sang as they played, and said, “Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands.”

    That song stayed in the top ten charts for years and really got under Saul’s skin.

    Now, if you or I start hearing grand things about ourselves, and we can run back through our resume of accomplishments, we can really start to feel proud of ourselves, and even start looking down our noses at the rest of the people who don’t really matter so much because they haven’t done the things we have done. We start developing delusions of grandeur, and that thinking quickly makes us too big for our britches.

    But David, even though he had all these ego boosting experiences behind him, wrote these words…
    O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty; Nor do I involve myself in great matters, Or in things too difficult for me.

    It may have been a stern reminder to himself: “Note to self. Don’t get stuck up. Remember God hates pride.”

    Or it may have simply been a raw statement of truth. He really was a humble person, and was waiting for God to carry him to the next level. In today’s world, the emphasis is on climbing the corporate ladder, and success is measured by how far up the ladder you get, usually by beating down the opposition and competition. David was content to let God promote him as and when He was ready. David wasn’t going to throw himself into debates about national policy matters or major national and international decisions. He would let God open the door and show him through.

    Solomon learned this. He wrote in Proverbs 25 6 Do not claim honor in the presence of the king, And do not stand in the place of great men; 7 For it is better that it be said to you, “Come up here,” Than for you to be placed lower in the presence of the prince, Whom your eyes have seen.

    In other words, it is better to be called up to a better place at the banquet table than to be kicked down it.

    David went on to say 2 Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; Like a weaned child rests against his mother, My soul is like a weaned child within me.

    Here he was, anointed to be king of Israel, and he had to go on the run for his life. God had made a promise to him, and now, why won’t God carry it out? He was telling himself to “wait on God’s timing, wait on the Lord”. He could have assassinated Saul and taken the crown for himself and the whole nation would have backed him. Abraham got anxious and tried to hurry God’s plan along to have children. Ishmael was the resulting child, and the result of that is the entire Arab-Israeli conflict today.

    David is doing what God says to do in 1 Peter 5: 6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. That’s a little of what David meant when he said he calmed himself, composed his soul like a child rests against his mother. We rest on God.

    Picture it in your head. A child wants something, but he’s not ready for it yet. He starts throwing a tantrum, gets himself all worn out, his mother picks him up and pats him on the back and says “there, there” and the child gradually gets quiet and maybe even goes to sleep. We want something…a promotion, a new job, a new boat or gun, we get all bent out of shape because we just can’t get it right now. We worry and fret, lose sleep. That’s when it’s time for us to calm ourselves down, picture ourselves nestling into God’s lap and leaning our heads on His shoulder. He will exalt us at the proper time.

    Jesus had a conversation about greatness in the Kingdom of Heaven with his disciples one day in Matthew 18. The conversation went like this: At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, 3 and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

    Converted? Jesus was telling them they had to turn their entire frame of reference and way of thinking around, and upside down. We need to become like children in our expectations and aspirations. A child can pretend to be superman, but he knows he’s just playing. He doesn’t expect to be able to bend steel in his bare hands; just laughs and runs off instead of worrying over it. A child knows he is not as important as a lot of other people and doesn’t worry about it in the least. He is quite happy to curl up on grand dad’s lap and have a story read to him. That’s the mentality we need to have…waiting and resting on God instead of trying to advance ourselves.

    Meantime, 3 O Israel, hope in the Lord From this time forth and forever.

    It works for David; it works for the entire nation.
     
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  15. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    Psalm 132

    This Psalm of Ascents is about how David wanted desperately to build a temple for God in Jerusalem. 2 Samuel 7 and 1 Chronicles 22 describe what happened. He proposed it. God said “No, you are a man of war. Your son will be a man of peace. He will build a temple for me.” So David commenced to gather the materials for the temple, and he went far and wide bringing things together for an “exceedingly magnificent” house for God. He spared no effort in his purpose to make this the best place in the world.

    But I couldn’t help thinking about Joseph at the same time, trying to find a place for him and Mary to lodge in Bethlehem, that first Christmas 2000 plus years ago.

    Remember, O Lord, on David’s behalf, All his affliction;
    2 How he swore to the Lord And vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob,
    3 “Surely I will not enter my house, Nor lie on my bed;
    4 I will not give sleep to my eyes Or slumber to my eyelids,
    5 Until I find a place for the Lord, A dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.”

    I suspect Joseph felt like he was afflicted, or at least in a mild panic as he entered Bethlehem that night. The town, as they say around here, was hoochin’. It was filled to bursting, with everyone coming to register for the census. There was no room for them anywhere, so Joseph and Mary had to make do with whatever shelter they could find. Joseph could not give his eyes sleep until he found a place for Mary to have her baby, until he could find a place for the Lord, Jesus, to dwell for a few days in Bethlehem after He was born.

    6 Behold, we heard of it in Ephrathah, We found it in the field of Jaar.
    7 Let us go into His dwelling place; Let us worship at His footstool.
    8 Arise, O Lord, to Your resting place, You and the ark of Your strength.
    9 Let Your priests be clothed with righteousness, And let Your godly ones sing for joy.

    When Jesus was born, the angels proclaimed it loud and long, and told the shepherds out in the fields where to find the baby Jesus. They and the wise men from the east came to worship Him. They came to his dwelling place, some say it was a stable, and worshipped at His resting place, a manger.

    From here on, that comparison breaks down, so let’s take a different tack.

    10 For the sake of David Your servant, Do not turn away the face of Your anointed.
    11 The Lord has sworn to David A truth from which He will not turn back:
    “Of the fruit of your body I will set upon your throne.
    12 “If your sons will keep My covenant And My testimony which I will teach them,
    Their sons also shall sit upon your throne forever.”

    Take a look at what God said to David in 2 Samuel 7: The Lord also declares to you that the Lord will make a house for you. 12 When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.

    That’s talking about Solomon who did build a magnificent temple in Jerusalem. It’s also talking about Jesus, called the son of David throughout the Gospels. He said to the disciples “I will build My Church”. After Jesus finished His work here on earth He sat down on His throne beside God. Hebrews 12 says 2fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

    The kingdom of Israel came to an end. But the Kingdom of God lasts forever, and Jesus’ seat is on the throne of God’s Kingdom. His throne lasts as long as the Kingdom of God lasts…forever.

    13 For the Lord has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His habitation.
    14 “This is My resting place forever; Here I will dwell, for I have desired it.
    15 “I will abundantly bless her provision; I will satisfy her needy with bread.
    16 “Her priests also I will clothe with salvation, And her godly ones will sing aloud for joy.
    17 “There I will cause the horn of David to spring forth; I have prepared a lamp for Mine anointed.
    18 “His enemies I will clothe with shame, But upon himself his crown shall shine.”

    Think of the description of Heaven, the New Jerusalem, in Revelation. The earth, the sun, moon, stars, the universe, will all be rolled up like old wallpaper torn from the walls is rolled up and thrown away. Revelation 21 describes it: Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, 4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”

    This is the place God has chosen to settle down for eternity. This is His temple. What David prepared for and what Solomon built was magnificent, but that temple won’t hold a match to what Heaven will be like. We will be the priests clothed with salvation; He will satisfy us with bread. His enemies will be put to shame for eternity.

    Meantime, we’re still here on earth, looking forward to all this.

    There is another throne Jesus wants to sit on. That’s the throne of our lives. He wants us to invite Him to come into our lives and rule. We couldn’t find a better King. He says in Matthew 11 28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
     
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  16. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    Psalm 133

    Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brothers to dwell together in unity!
    2 It is like the precious oil upon the head, Coming down upon the beard,
    Even Aaron’s beard, Coming down upon the edge of his robes.
    3 It is like the dew of Hermon Coming down upon the mountains of Zion;
    For there the Lord commanded the blessing—life forever.


    Picture it in your mind’s eye. The Israelites had made their pilgrimage to Jerusalem from all over Israel, had crowded the city to bursting point, and had spent the last week worshipping God during the Passover. They had met up with relatives and old friends and made new friends. This has been a great gathering and they have had a wonderful time.

    It sounds like one of the TFF gatherings. The friendships formed already online become firmed up at the face to face meetings, and everyone seems to have a great time.

    Now they are thinking about going back home, getting ready to say their good-byes.

    They look around at the crowded temple and think on the good times they have had together, talking, telling jokes and laughing, sharing experiences, talking about friends and family still at home, even crying together as they talk about losses and tragedies in their lives. The time together has been a refreshing time, an enriching time, a thoroughly enjoyable time.

    So they can sing this Psalm now, and mean it when they say Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brothers to dwell together in unity!

    Even though they are from many different areas of Israel, from many different walks of life and occupation; even though they are young and old thrown together in tight quarters, they have a common bond in their relationship with God and this has united them, caused them to work and live together in harmony, in unity.

    And we, as Christians, share that same relationship with each other today because we are brothers together with Jesus. He said in Matthew 12 48 But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” 49 And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.”

    Now, I know that some families get on like cats and dogs; sibling rivalry, parents and disrespectful children can make a family gathering more like a civil war than a good time for bonding. Family gatherings at Christmas can be traumatic experiences, to say the least. But that’s not how God wants it to be.

    The same happens in some churches, where some people are more concerned with pushing their own agenda than building the Kingdom of God.

    God gave a few hints about how we can be together in harmony, have this warm, encouraging, refreshing fellowship together as congregations and as families.

    First, realize that we are all equally precious in God’s eyes. He has redeemed us all through the blood of His Son Jesus Christ, and made us His children.

    Second, it takes the right mindset. Big egos don’t make good fellowship. Romans 12 says 3 For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.

    Third, it takes a little preparation. Hebrews 10 says 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

    Fourth, realize God has made us different from each other, and each of us has strengths, and weaknesses. We need to capitalize on the strengths, and help with the weaknesses.

    In fact, God put together a list of things for building harmonious relationships in Colossians 3: 12 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. 14 Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

    And that fellowship, that unity is a refreshing thing. You are walking along and suddenly you catch a whiff of something that smells really good. It might be perfume, good coffee, a bakery, food; whatever it is you say to yourself “I want some of that”. Good fellowship is like that, God says: 2 It is like the precious oil upon the head, Coming down upon the beard, Even Aaron’s beard, Coming down upon the edge of his robes. That precious oil was infused with fragrant spices, and God gave the recipe for it in Exodus 30. It would have filled the air with a wonderful fragrance that you want to smell all day.

    Or that fellowship is refreshing, revitalizing, like the morning dew. 3 It is like the dew of Hermon Coming down upon the mountains of Zion; You know what it’s like to walk out the door first thing in the morning, to smell the fresh air, walk through the dewy grass and enjoy the coolness before the day gets hot. You get a dose of energy from that, a “breath of fresh air” to start the day.

    For there the Lord commanded the blessing—life forever.

    Someone once said, after a good time at a conference, “All this and heaven too!!”

    That fellowship we share with other Christians is a refreshing, energizing, revitalizing thing. And it’s a foretaste of what Heaven will be like.

    May God bless us with rich, reviving, refreshing fellowship with family, friends, and other Christians in the coming days.
     
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