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THIS IS THE PLACE FOR OUR ON-LINE GATHERING!

While our building is closed for the COVID-19 quarantine, you can find our on-line gathering opportunities here.  Each day you will find a daily reading and prayer from Pastor Wayne and links to video offerings when they become available.  If you have a need, please call 717-525-1196.

May 21 Daily Reading

Today’s reading from Psalm 108...


My heart is steadfast, O God!
 I will sing and make melody with all my being!
2 Awake, O harp and lyre!
 I will awake the dawn!
3 I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;
 I will sing praises to you among the nations.
4 For your steadfast love is great above the heavens;
 your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.

5 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
 Let your glory be over all the earth!
6 That your beloved ones may be delivered,
 give salvation by your right hand and answer me!


Consider this...

Overall, I have enjoyed good health. I’ve had a few minor injuries: a broken finger and a clavicle, but nothing serious. The sickest I have ever been, however, was when I contracted a hospital-acquired infection. This was in the days before “c-diff” was known to run rampant in hospitals. I had been to visit a church member who was in the hospital and ended up in bed for 10 days myself. My doctor said that I will always be at higher risk for getting it again. When I visit people in the hospital who have c-diff, it makes me pause. I don’t ever want to be that sick again! Before I go into that room, I heed all the precautions before heading in.


There is much that can make our hearts tremble like that. What is the thing that most causes you to tremble today?


Today’s psalm is attributed to David and he begins with a bold proclamation: “My heart is steadfast, O God!” That might sound audacious to you, but wouldn’t you like to start the day with such a song on your lips? Wouldn’t you like to have a heart that is truly steadfast?

In the portion of Psalm 108 we are reading today, we see observe David’s steadfast heart connected to his praise and worship. We could ask the chicken-and-egg question and wonder which comes first, his steadfast heart or his worship? 

What comes first is found in verse 4. “For your steadfast love is great above the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.” God’s faithfulness happens before all our reaction to it. 


The lesson I see here is simple: worship of God is connected to a steadfast heart. There are somedays when worship flows from the heart of a person who is already feeling steadfast in God’s faithfulness. 


And from my own experience I know it sometimes happens the other way around. On somedays, I choose to worship and give praise to God’s steadfastness when I am not particularly inclined to feel like it. I do so in the sure hope that the discipline of worship invites the steadfastness of God’s love into my troubled heart.


Let us pray...

Steadfast God, we give you our troubled hearts this day. We invite your steadfastness to enter in and fill these fragile vessels until the brim and overflow. May the overflow be our worship. Before we are even able to think through all the ways you are faithful, may our lives be full of your goodness. We yield ourselves to you this day. Amen.

May 20 Daily Reading

Today’s reading from Psalm 107...


Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
 for his steadfast love endures forever!
2 Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
 whom he has redeemed from trouble
3 and gathered in from the lands,
 from the east and from the west,
 from the north and from the south.

17 Some were fools through their sinful ways,
 and because of their iniquities suffered affliction;
18 they loathed any kind of food,
 and they drew near to the gates of death.
19 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
 and he delivered them from their distress.
20 He sent out his word and healed them,
 and delivered them from their destruction.
21 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
 for his wondrous works to the children of man!
22 And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving,
 and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!

23 Some went down to the sea in ships,
 doing business on the great waters;
24 they saw the deeds of the Lord,
 his wondrous works in the deep.
25 For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,
 which lifted up the waves of the sea.
26 They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths;
 their courage melted away in their evil plight;
27 they reeled and staggered like drunken men
 and were at their wits' end.
28 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
 and he delivered them from their distress.
29 He made the storm be still,
 and the waves of the sea were hushed.
30 Then they were glad that the waters were quiet,
 and he brought them to their desired haven.
31 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
 for his wondrous works to the children of man!
32 Let them extol him in the congregation of the people,
 and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

39 When they are diminished and brought low
 through oppression, evil, and sorrow,
40 he pours contempt on princes
 and makes them wander in trackless wastes;
41 but he raises up the needy out of affliction
 and makes their families like flocks.
42 The upright see it and are glad,
 and all wickedness shuts its mouth.

43 Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things;
 let them consider the steadfast love of the Lord.


Consider this...

Historically, revival referred to a time of God-sent blessing beyond the ordinary. Ministers of the Word went about their work, praying, preaching, catechizing, counseling, whether in times of persecution, or in times of relative quiet and steady growth. Both if the Lord God visited his people with revival, it was immediately evident in an extraordinary sense of the presence of God, in deep-seated repentance and a renewed passion for holiness, and ultimately in the sound and indisputable conversion of many people. It could be relatively disciplined, or it might be mixed with the spurious.

Psalm 107 lists a diverse array of circumstances in which people find themselves in great anger or under horrible oppression, usually because of their own sin. In each case, God comes to the rescue. Those who wandered in desert wastelands cried to the Lord, and were delivered from their thirst and hunger (107:4-9). Others sat in chains, prisoners, “for they had rebelled against the words of God” (107:11), and the Lord freed them (107:13-14). Still others become so corroded by their folly that they loathed life. But when they cried to the Lord, “he sent forth his word and healed them” (107:20). Others found themselves in mortal peril on the seas, and here too, the Lord responded to their cries and saved them (107:23-32). Indeed, this God humbles the haughty and for the sake of the needy and afflicted he turns the desert into fertile fields (107:33-42).

Lest we misunderstand the psalmist’s point, he makes it clear for us in two ways. First, in most of the sections, when he describes those who have been saved, he prescribes, “Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men” (107:8, 15, 21, 31). Second, the opening of the psalm reminds us that God is good, and his love endures forever, while the closing insists, “Whoever is wise, let him heed these things and consider the great love of the Lord.” This, and this alone, is the ultimate source of God’s blessing- not the least being revival. And the last verse goes further, and provides the sanction for studying revivals among the blessings of God.

[from D.A. Carson in For the Love of God, Vol. 1]


Let us pray...

Rescuing God, we do pray that you would move among your people. Open eyes to the ways you are among us today. May new people recognize that the conditions and circumstances that we currently face are well within your power and that you indeed are present with us. Save us in the way you intend, and may your people be revived. Amen.

May 19 Daily Reading

Today’s reading from Psalm 104

  

O Lord, how manifold are your works!
 In wisdom have you made them all;
 the earth is full of your creatures.
25 Here is the sea, great and wide,
 which teems with creatures innumerable,
 living things both small and great.
26 There go the ships,
 and Leviathan, which you formed to play in it.

27 These all look to you,
 to give them their food in due season.
28 When you give it to them, they gather it up;
 when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
 when you take away their breath, they die
 and return to their dust.
30 When you send forth your Spirit, they are created,
 and you renew the face of the ground.

31 May the glory of the Lord endure forever;
 may the Lord rejoice in his works,
32 who looks on the earth and it trembles,
 who touches the mountains and they smoke!
33 I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
 I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
34 May my meditation be pleasing to him,
 for I rejoice in the Lord.
35 Let sinners be consumed from the earth,
 and let the wicked be no more!
Bless the Lord, O my soul!
Praise the Lord!


Consider this...

The first part of Psalm 104 is a long litany of the earth’s creation and reliance on the sovereignty and provision of God. Verses 24-26 are a sample and the final refrain before the psalmist sums up by saying, “these all look to you” [God].

The thing that strikes me in the Psalm of praise is that life and death are both part of the picture.

29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
 when you take away their breath, they die
 and return to their dust.
30 When you send forth your Spirit, they are created,
 and you renew the face of the ground.

The thing that strikes me about living in the era of COVID is the media’s repeated incredulity that people might die. They speak of it as it is completely unexpected. Someone must be to blame.

This may sound shocking, but if someone is to “blame,” it is God. The psalmist in a way that seems surprising to the modern mind, actually includes the reality of death in a psalm of praise. In the over-arching story of God’s rescue and redemption, death is part of the process by which the purpose of our birth is fulfilled. We were born to be children of God in full communion with our Father in heaven. “Eternal life” is the best description of that ultimate goal.

Don’t be distracted by news about COVID. You and I will die, one way or another and through death God fully draws us to himself.


Therefore...

33 I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
 I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
34 May my meditation be pleasing to him,
 for I rejoice in the Lord.
 

Let us pray...

Lord of life and death and all creation, we know our life and death are held in your sovereign grace. We pray that we might, with hope and faith, face all the conditions of our living and dying. Make us unafraid to live for you this day. Help us to be people of peace and grace as we will soon begin interacting with others again. Amen.

May 18 Daily Reading

Today’s reading from Psalm 103


Bless the Lord, O my soul,
 and all that is within me,
 bless his holy name!
2 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
 and forget not all his benefits,
3 who forgives all your iniquity,
 who heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit,
 who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
5 who satisfies you with good
 so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

6 The Lord works righteousness
 and justice for all who are oppressed.
7 He made known his ways to Moses,
 his acts to the people of Israel.
8 The Lord is merciful and gracious,
 slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9 He will not always chide,
 nor will he keep his anger forever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
 nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
 so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
 so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13 As a father shows compassion to his children,
 so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
14 For he knows our frame;
 he remembers that we are dust.

15 As for man, his days are like grass;
 he flourishes like a flower of the field;
16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
 and its place knows it no more.
17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from 

everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
 and his righteousness to children's children,
18 to those who keep his covenant
 and remember to do his commandments.
19 The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
 and his kingdom rules over all.

20 Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
 you mighty ones who do his word,
 obeying the voice of his word!
21 Bless the Lord, all his hosts,
 his ministers, who do his will!
22 Bless the Lord, all his works,
 in all places of his dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul!


Consider this...

I have sometimes heard people say that “the God of the New Testament is a God of mercy, but the God of the Old Testament is a God of judgement.” Such a view of God and the Bible is a misunderstanding. Psalm 103 is just one example of the mercy and love that God lavishes of his Old Testament-era people.

The tone of this psalm is one of joy and gladness. It is a song that is sung by a person who has received the steadfast love of the Lord and with a thankful heart, and sings God’s praise.

Take note of the things that God’s steadfast love and mercy has come to address:

· Iniquity and disease (v. 3)

· Life lived in “the pit” (v. 4)

· Agedness (v. 5)

· Injustice and oppression (v. 6)

· Sinfulness and iniquity (v. 10)

· Frailty (vs. 14-16)

And take note of the degree to which the psalmist sings of the deliverance from these things. “As high is the heavens above the earth” and “as far as the east is from the west.” Never does God deliver too little, too late. God provides completely. The discipline of thankfulness helps us to see how true this is.

One last thought: In verse 2 the psalmist reminds himself, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” The presence of this verse is the surprising reminder that we sometimes forget all that the Lord is doing in our lives. It is possible that we neglect to remember all that God has done for us: creation, salvation and daily provision. Let us never forget all his benefits!


What are God’s benefits in your life today?


Let us pray...

My soul blesses you O God! This very day is an act of your creative power. You have saved me from the tragedy of my sin. You have made me your child, even when these is nothing about me that deserves it. You have given me everything I need for today. Thank you, heavenly Father for all that is within me! Amen.

May 12 Daily Reading

Today’s reading from Psalm 95...


Oh come, let us sing to the Lord;
 let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
2 Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
 let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
3 For the Lord is a great God,
 and a great King above all gods.
4 In his hand are the depths of the earth;
 the heights of the mountains are his also.
5 The sea is his, for he made it,
 and his hands formed the dry land.

6 Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
 let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
7 For he is our God,
 and we are the people of his pasture,
 and the sheep of his hand.
Today, if you hear his voice,
8  do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
 as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
9 when your fathers put me to the test
 and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.
10 For forty years I loathed that generation
 and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart,
 and they have not known my ways.”
11 Therefore I swore in my wrath,
 “They shall not enter my rest.”


Consider this...

There are some days when deciding to live in faithful and Godly ways is harder than others. On those days the challenges to faithfulness seem overwhelming. On those days our fuel for holiness feels like it is on “E.”

That is something like what happened to the recently-freed Israelites at Meribah and Massah (95:8). God had released them from their slavery in Egypt and led by Moses, they entered into the desert of Sinai. They were soon thirsty and began to argue with Moses about the lack of water and the wisdom of having left Egypt. They began to doubt that God was even with them. In Exodus 17 we read, 


7 And [Moses] called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the Lord by saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”


Maybe in the midst of quarantine, you have wondered this very thing. Is the Lord with us or not? When everything is difficult, our hearts get hard. In this twisted place, we feel as if we lack the energy to even pray, but when our hearts are hard like this, we never find rest either.

Then someone says to you, “let’s pray together.” When my heart is hard, it’s the last thing I want to do, but it is the thing I most need.

The writer of this psalm issues this very invitation. When we are a people whose hearts are hard, like on the day of Massah and Meribah, we need to enter into the Lord’s presence.


6 Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
 let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
7 For he is our God,
 and we are the people of his pasture,
 and the sheep of his hand.
 

Let us pray...

Lord, some days it feels like we are empty and without the energy to even speak with you. We are restless and listless. We grumble and complain about things that are out of our control. Even on days when we don’t feel like worshiping, call us into your presence. May we bow down and kneel before you, and there, find rest for our weary souls. Amen.

May 8 Daily Reading

Today’s reading from Psalm 90...


Lord, you have been our dwelling place
 in all generations.
2 Before the mountains were brought forth,
 or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
 from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

3 You return man to dust
 and say, “Return, O children of man!”
4 For a thousand years in your sight
 are but as yesterday when it is past,
 or as a watch in the night.

5 You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream,
 like grass that is renewed in the morning:
6 in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
 in the evening it fades and withers.

7 For we are brought to an end by your anger;
 by your wrath we are dismayed.
8 You have set our iniquities before you,
 our secret sins in the light of your presence.

9 For all our days pass away under your wrath;
 we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
10 The years of our life are seventy,
 or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span is but toil and trouble;
 they are soon gone, and we fly away.
11 Who considers the power of your anger,
 and your wrath according to the fear of you?

12 So teach us to number our days
 that we may get a heart of wisdom.
13 Return, O Lord! How long?
 Have pity on your servants!
14 Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
 that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
 and for as many years as we have seen evil.
16 Let your work be shown to your servants,
 and your glorious power to their children.
17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
 and establish the work of our hands upon us;
 yes, establish the work of our hands!


Consider this...

Thankfully it looks as if COVID restrictions will begin lifting in another in another week or two.  As they do, these daily readings will also be coming to an end.  I hope they have been helpful for your soul during these strange times.  Let me encourage you to find a daily tool to continue a daily practice of reading and reflecting and praying through God’s word.  One that I have found helpful for me is the book I have referenced several times during these weeks. It is called For the Love of God by D.A. Carson published by Crossway.  


As we come to the end of these daily emails, I’d like to do something different with you.  Psalm 90 begins what is considered the ‘Fourth Book’ of the Psalms.  This fourth of five books moves in a different way than the psalms we have been reading recently.

As you read Psalm 90 today, please do so slowly.  What jumps out at you as you read?  What do you notice?  And what questions do you have?  Please put those in an email to me Iwaynel@roadtoemmaus.church) and we will use your questions and observations for the basis of a few days of reflection on this psalm.  Thanks!


Let us pray...

God of steadfast love, you have been our dwelling place for all generations.  The entirety of our lives is in your hands.  Our beginning and end are in you.  Teach us the wisdom that may be learned in knowing this.  This is the day that you have made for us.  We rejoice for you in it! Amen.

May 7 Daily Reading

Today’s reading from Psalm 84...


How lovely is your dwelling place,
 O Lord of hosts!
2 My soul longs, yes, faints
 for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and flesh sing for joy
 to the living God.

3 Even the sparrow finds a home,
 and the swallow a nest for herself,
 where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O Lord of hosts,
 my King and my God.
4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house,
 ever singing your praise! Selah

5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
 in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
6 As they go through the Valley of Baca
 they make it a place of springs;
 the early rain also covers it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength;
 each one appears before God in Zion.

8 O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer;
 give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah
9 Behold our shield, O God;
 look on the face of your anointed!

10 For a day in your courts is better
 than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
 than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
 the Lord bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
 from those who walk uprightly.
12 O Lord of hosts,
 blessed is the one who trusts in you!


Consider this...

As this psalm was being written, the city of Jerusalem and its Temple would have the most awe-inspiring place God’s people would have ever seen.  The inner-most room of the Temple, called the ‘Holy of Holies,’ was believed to be the place on earth where the very presence of God resided.

Each year, thousands of God’s people made a pilgrimage to worship God in the Temple at Jerusalem, particularly at times of festival.  Many of the Psalms sing of the sights along the way and the joy of beholding the city in the distance as they approached it after a long trip.

We can hear the excitement and anticipation in the first two verses.


How lovely is your dwelling place,
 O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, yes, faints
 for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and flesh sing for joy
 to the living God.


We might liken this to the gladness with which we sing Christmas carols in anticipation of the celebration of Jesus’ birth. We put a lot of energy into the Christmas season, and it is easy to miss the central purpose of all that activity. Christians must be careful not to want Christmas celebrations more than they want Christ.  Those making their pilgrimage to Jerusalem might fall into the same trap, wanting the Temple more than the one who resides there.


In the end, the psalmist gets it right.


10 For a day in your courts is better
 than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
 than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
 the Lord bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
 from those who walk uprightly.
12 O Lord of hosts,
 blessed is the one who trusts in you!


Remember the words Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. “the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.  God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23 &24)


Let us pray...

Lord, we do long to be in our regular place of worship, singing your praise with our brothers and sisters.  Help us not to want to be in your courts more than we want you.  You are the reason for our being and gathering.  It is in you that we trust.  We yearn for the day when we shall gather again for worship.  Until then - and all the days after - may we walk uprightly for your honor. Amen.

May 6 Daily Reading

Today’s reading from Psalm 81...


Sing aloud to God our strength;
 shout for joy to the God of Jacob!
2 Raise a song; sound the tambourine,
 the sweet lyre with the harp.
3 Blow the trumpet at the new moon,
 at the full moon, on our feast day.

4 For it is a statute for Israel,
 a rule of the God of Jacob.
5 He made it a decree in Joseph
 when he went out over the land of Egypt.
I hear a language I had not known:
6 “I relieved your shoulder of the burden;
 your hands were freed from the basket.
7 In distress you called, and I delivered you;
 I answered you in the secret place of thunder;
 I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Selah
8 Hear, O my people, while I admonish you!
 O Israel, if you would but listen to me!
9 There shall be no strange god among you;
 you shall not bow down to a foreign god.
10 I am the Lord your God,
 who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
 Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.

11 “But my people did not listen to my voice;
 Israel would not submit to me.
12 So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts,
 to follow their own counsels.
13 Oh, that my people would listen to me,
 that Israel would walk in my ways!
14 I would soon subdue their enemies
 and turn my hand against their foes.
15 Those who hate the Lord would cringe toward him,
 and their fate would last forever.
16 But he would feed you with the finest of the wheat,
 and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”


Consider this...

Today’s Psalm is one of 12 attributed to a man called Asaph. He is thought to be the son of Berechiah who is said to be an ancestor of the Asaphites. The Asaphites were one of the guilds of musicians in the First Temple built by Solomon. At the time of this writing, the events of Israel’s slavery in Egypt were already 500 years in the past. The first part of this psalm relies heavily on the history of Israel’s slavery and rescue to make a point.

At verse 8, there is a shift from the past tense of history to a present tense admonishment: bow down to no other god.


I am the Lord your God,
 who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
 Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it. (81:10)


God is willing and able to satisfying our deepest needs and wants. To ‘open your mouth wide’ implies food, but this is more than just about food. The problem is that we hesitate to open our mouths to the food that God provides.

Instead we try to satisfy ourselves on the low-hanging fruit that is more visible. This is the nature of idolatry. We become beholden to the things that we think will most immediately satisfy our desires. 

The trap of this is its subtlety. A few people struggle with big versions of idolatry that are clearly wrong and visibly destructive (illicit drugs, reckless sexuality, outright theft, etc.). Most of us dabble in an idolatry that is more like a slow drip. We may hardly notice its presence. John Piper writes, “It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not [pornography], but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink from every night.”

In this era of COVID-19, I have heard several people say to me, “I’ve stopped watching the news.” It seems to me they have done so because they have recognized this effect. The endless dribble of the same news dulls our emotions, spirits and senses.


11 “But my people did not listen to my voice;
 Israel would not submit to me.
12 So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts,
 to follow their own counsels.


Yes, people are dying. We are to weep with those who weep, but no amount of 24/7 news broadcast will change that reality. I recently heard it said that stopping a virus is like trying to drive a nail through Jell-O and hang it on a wall. Can any human effort really stop this virus from running its course? We may never really know.


13 Oh, that my people would listen to me,
 that Israel would walk in my ways!
14 I would soon subdue their enemies
 and turn my hand against their foes.

16 But he would feed you with the finest of the wheat,
 and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”


Whose voice are you listening to?


Let us pray...

Holy Spirit, curb our hunger for the immediate and easy. We are tired of trying to be satisfied with the endless drip. May we be content with the feast that you provide. Help us to know that when we walk in your ways, the things that move against us will soon be subdued. Trusting you for this, we are not afraid! Amen. 

May 5 Daily Reading

Today’s reading from Psalm 71...


O God, from my youth you have taught me,
   and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
18 So even to old age and gray hairs,
   O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
   your power to all those to come.
19 Your righteousness, O God,
   reaches the high heavens.
You who have done great things,
   O God, who is like you?
20 You who have made me see many troubles and calamities
   will revive me again;
from the depths of the earth
   you will bring me up again.
21 You will increase my greatness
   and comfort me again.

22 I will also praise you with the harp
   for your faithfulness, O my God;
I will sing praises to you with the lyre,
   O Holy One of Israel.
23 My lips will shout for joy,
   when I sing praises to you;
   my soul also, which you have redeemed.
24 And my tongue will talk of your righteous help all the day long,
for they have been put to shame and disappointed
   who sought to do me hurt.


Consider this...

I am frankly sick and tired of hearing about the ‘new normal’ or that things will never be ‘normal’ again.  Sure, I get it.  We remember what things were like just before we ever heard the word COVID. We would like to return to the things we enjoyed and now miss while under quarantine.

Those who would tell us that things will never be normal again are ignoring a reality that we should all recognize.  Things are always changing.  They were changing before the appearance of the coronavirus.  That is what it means to live in time.  Nothing ever stays exactly the same.  The way things are today will be different before too long.  And God is present in it all. Read again Psalm 72:20. 


“You who have made me see many troubles and calamities
   will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again.”


The person who wrote this psalm has had enough life experience to see that things ebb and flow.  Some days are better than others.  Joy and sorrow, weakness and strength, health and sickness, poverty and wealth, life and death, these all have their seasons.  The way things are and the way you feel today will not be like this forever.

As you read this today, I pray that you know that God is present with you today in today’s struggle.  Whatever that struggle is, and whatever its degree, it is in flux; it is changing.  Tomorrow may be better or worse, but God is an ever-present help in times of trouble (Psalm 46) and a comfort that restores joy.

Please permit me a word of council. The voices of officials who would tell us that things will never be normal again are often using fear to make us compliant to disease control measures. It may be the only tool they have for enforcement. Humans tend to think they have greater control over the forces of nature than we really do. 

Don’t let them make you afraid. We should not be shocked or afraid that things will never be ‘normal’ again.  That was already true.  

Our motivation to participation in disease control measures should be the same that motivates all our community life: love.  


4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. (1 Cor. 13)


It is God’s love in us that enables again our proclamation...


So even to old age and gray hairs,
   O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
   your power to all those to come.
Your righteousness, O God,
   reaches the high heavens.
You who have done great things,
   O God, who is like you?


Let us pray...

Lord, show me what I am afraid of today.  Show me what I do out of fear.  As I trust you more and more each day, make me unafraid of an uncertain future because I know you are there already.  Help me to love those I live among by doing what is best for them. Amen.

May 4 Daily Reading

Today’s reading from Psalm 66...

Shout for joy to God, all the earth;
2  sing the glory of his name;
 give to him glorious praise!
3 Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!
 So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you.
4 All the earth worships you
 and sings praises to you;
 they sing praises to your name.” Selah

5 Come and see what God has done:
 he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man.
6 He turned the sea into dry land;
 they passed through the river on foot.
There did we rejoice in him,
7  who rules by his might forever,
whose eyes keep watch on the nations—
 let not the rebellious exalt themselves. Selah

8 Bless our God, O peoples;
 let the sound of his praise be heard,
9 who has kept our soul among the living
 and has not let our feet slip.
10 For you, O God, have tested us;
 you have tried us as silver is tried.
11 You brought us into the net;
 you laid a crushing burden on our backs;
12 you let men ride over our heads;
 we went through fire and through water;
yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.

13 I will come into your house with burnt offerings;
 I will perform my vows to you,
14 that which my lips uttered
 and my mouth promised when I was in trouble.
15 I will offer to you burnt offerings of fattened animals,
 with the smoke of the sacrifice of rams;
I will make an offering of bulls and goats. Selah

16 Come and hear, all you who fear God,
 and I will tell what he has done for my soul.
17 I cried to him with my mouth,
 and high praise was on[a] my tongue.[b]
18 If I had cherished iniquity in my heart,
 the Lord would not have listened.
19 But truly God has listened;
 he has attended to the voice of my prayer.

20 Blessed be God,
 because he has not rejected my prayer
 or removed his steadfast love from me!


Consider this...

It won’t be too much longer before we gather in person as the church. As I talk with individuals, I hear the longing to be with one another again. We have missed the sight of each other and the happy fellowship that fills the room with a joyful noise. As we read Psalm 66 today it stands as a reminder of what it is that we gather to do: praise God.

To a degree, ‘praise’ has been reduced to a kind of music that churches offer in their worship services. It is sometimes called “contemporary” and is often written after 1980. The lyrics of this music is usually projected on a screen. “Traditional” music is written in the centuries prior to 1959 and is read from a hymnal. I’m not sure what happened music from between the two, but to diminish ‘praise’ to a relatively modern style of church music is an unfortunate reduction. Psalm 66 leads our praise to a fuller expression. Here are some examples:

Our praise gives grateful voice to who God is and what God has done. “Sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise!  Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!” (66:2&3a) While we praise God for every new day we are given, and may be by ourselves at various times when we offer that gratitude, praise must also be a gathered activity. “Come and see what God has done” (66:5). But notice here something critical: not only do we assemble for praise, we invite others into it.


What are you thankful to God for? Who do you need to tell about it?


Verse 8-12 reflect on Israel’s time of slavery in Egypt. “You brought us into the net; you laid burdens on our backs; you let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water;” The psalmist’s praise acknowledges this time of struggle and testing. Hard as it was, it had a purpose. Through it the people of God were tested and delivered. “Let the sound of his praise be heard, who had kept us among the living” (66:8b&9a) and “You have brought us out to a spacious place.” (62:12b). Our praise likewise acknowledges the struggle we have faced and gives thanks for what God is doing through it.


What is your struggle today? What is God leading you to through it?


The psalmist speaks of bringing his sacrifice to the temple. Burnt offerings and the sacrifice of rams, bulls and goats were prescribed in those days. These were the offerings of praise. Praise brings an offering. The grateful heart brings a gift. When we are glad for another, such as at birthdays and anniversaries, we celebrate them with gifts. Praise for God springs from the heart of one who is glad for God and is likewise reflected in an offering of praise. 


Is your offering a reflection of your praise and gladness for God?


Let us pray... 

Lord, you are good and we praise you this day.  You have made it and all that happens in it.  We ask that Psalm 66 would show us how to better praise and worship you.  Amen.

May 2 Daily Reading

Today's reading form Psalm 56...

  

Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me;
 all day long an attacker oppresses me;
2 my enemies trample on me all day long,
 for many attack me proudly.
3 When I am afraid,
 I put my trust in you.
4 In God, whose word I praise,
 in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
 What can flesh do to me?

5 All day long they injure my cause;
 all their thoughts are against me for evil.
6 They stir up strife, they lurk;
 they watch my steps,
 as they have waited for my life.
7 For their crime will they escape?
 In wrath cast down the peoples, O God!

8 You have kept count of my tossings;
 put my tears in your bottle.
 Are they not in your book?
9 Then my enemies will turn back
 in the day when I call.
 This I know, that God is for me.
10 In God, whose word I praise,
 in the Lord, whose word I praise,
11 in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
 What can man do to me?

12 I must perform my vows to you, O God;
 I will render thank offerings to you.
13 For you have delivered my soul from death,
 yes, my feet from falling,
that I may walk before God
 in the light of life.


Consider this...

[Today’s reading is from D.A. Carson’s book For the Love of God

American coins have the words “In God we trust.” In our pluralistic age, it is not unreasonable to respond, “Which God?” Even if the answer to that were unambiguously the God of the Bible, most people, I suspect, would think of this trust in God in fairly privatized or mystical ways. It is distressingly east to think of trust in God as a kind of religious intuition, a pious sensibility, with only the vaguest perception of what this trust entails.

David is under no such delusions. Twice in Psalm 56 his description of the God in whom we trust implicitly gives some substance to the nature of trust. David writes, “When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, I in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?” (56:3-4, emphasis added). Again: “In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise – in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (56:10-11, emphasis added).

In both passages, David grasps that trust in God is the only solution to this fear: “When I am afraid, I will trust in you... in God I trust; I will not be afraid ... in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”  The superscription of the psalm shows that David wrote it shortly after his horrible experience in Gath (1 Sam. 21:10-15). While fleeing Saul, David hid out in Philistine territory and came within a whisker of being killed. He escaped by feigning madness. Doubtless he had been very afraid, and in his fear he trusted God, and found the strength to pull off a remarkable act that saved his life.

But for our purposes, the striking element in David’s confession of his trust is his repetition of one clause. Three time he mentions the Lord God whose word I praise. In this context, the specific word that calls forth this description probably has something to do with why David could trust him so fully under the circumstances. The most likely candidate for what this “word” is that David praises is God’s promise to give him the kingdom and to establish him as the head of a dynasty. His current circumstance are so dire that unbelief might seem more obviously warranted. But David trusts the Lord whose word I praise.

What we need is faith in the speaking God, faith in God that is firmly grounded in what this speaking God has said. Then, in the midst of even appalling circumstance, we can find deep rest in the God who does not go back on his word. Transparently, such faith is grounded in God’s revelatory words.


Let us pray...

Teach me, O God, to trust your word more fully.  Show me the ways that I am prone to go my own way.  Reveal to me the ways in which I trust the world and what it tells me more than I trust you and what you speak to me.  Amen.