Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Gift

It's almost Christmas, and like it or not, one of the first things most people think of at Christmas time is presents.  Gifts.  Gifts for kids, gifts for spouses, gifts for parents, gifts for all kinds of friends and loved ones.  (Gifts from loved ones, as well!)  Gifts in big boxes.  Gifts in small packages.  Gifts in bags with ribbons and bows.  They're all so beautifully wrapped then placed under a tree, waiting for just the right time to be opened.  It's an exciting time, folks.

But it's not ALL about the gifts.

Another one of my favorite things about the holidays is the music.  I can never seem to get enough of it...from Silent Night to Deck the Halls, and everything in between.  But I wanted to mention one of my particularly favorite Christmas songs...

It might be surprising, given my specific religious upbringing...but I love "The Little Drummer Boy".  Part of me identifies with this song simply because I'm a musician, and I play an instrument.  But on a deeper level, I can identify:
  • With the desire to offer a gift to the King...
  • With the realization that I have nothing fit to offer Him...
  • With the attempt at offering Him the best that I can anyway...
  • And with the understanding that my gift, meager though it may be, is still enough to make the King smile.
Because, you see, God is pleased with a gift that is offered in sincere and loving response to the gift He's given us, one that the Apostle Paul says was given "in accordance with his pleasure and will--to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves."  Paul goes on to further explain that this gift is the gift of God's grace.  "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God."

This gift of God is better than any gift that has been wrapped in beautiful paper and ribbons and bows and put under a tree only to be opened in the next few days, in order to bring some measure of joy to the recipient.

Because instead, this Gift of God was wrapped in swaddling clothes and eventually put on a tree only to be raised in a few days, in order to bring an eternity of joy to all who would receive.

That, my friends, is what Christmas is really about.  Not the gifts, but the Gift.

"Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!"

Monday, December 19, 2011

Prayers of the Bible, Part 14--David & the Psalms

Here I will share with you some of the Psalms that have spoken to my spirit over the past several months. I would welcome you to spend some time with them...and to allow your own thirsty soul to drink of His Spirit...



Psalm 42

As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food day and night,
while men say to me all day long,
"Where is your God?"
These things I remember
as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go with the multitude,
leading the procession to the house of God,
with shouts of joy and thanksgiving
among the festive throng.

Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.

My soul is downcast within me;
therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
the heights of Hermon--from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me.

By day the Lord directs his love
at night his song is with me--
a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to God my Rock,
"Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?"
My bones suffer mortal agony
as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
"Where is your God?"

Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.



Psalm 46
 
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
 
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
 
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
 
Come and see the works of the Lord,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth;
he burns the shields with fire.
"Be still and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations.
I will be exalted in the earth."
 
The Lord almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
 
 
 
Psalm 51
 
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
 
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are proved right when you speak
and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Surely you desire truth in the inner parts;
you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.
 
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.
 
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
 
Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will turn back to you.
Save me from bloodguilt, O God,
the God who saves me,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burn offerings.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise.
 
In your good pleasure make Zion prosper;
build up the walls of Jerusalem.
then there wil be righteous sacrifices,
whole burnt offerings to delight you;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Prayers of the Bible, Part 13--David & the Psalms

Here I will share with you some of the Psalms that have spoken to my spirit over the past several months. I would welcome you to spend some time with them...and to allow your own thirsty soul to drink of His Spirit...



Psalm 32

Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him
and in whose spirit is no deceit.

When I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord"--
and you forgave the guilt of my sin.

Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you
while you may be found;
surely when the mighty waters rise,
they will not reach him.
You are my hiding place;
you will protect me from trouble
and surround me with songs of deliverance.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you and watch over you.
Do not be like the horse or the mule,
which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle
or they will not come to you.
Many are the woes of the wicked,
but the Lord's unfailing love
surrounds the man who trusts in him.

Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous;
sing, all you who are upright in heart!



Psalm 34

I will extol the Lord at all times;
his praise will always be on my lips.
My soul will boast in the Lord;
let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the Lord with me;
let us exalt his name together.

I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;
he saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,
and he delivers them.

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.
Fear the Lord, you his saints,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Come, my children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.

Whoever of you loves life
and desires to see many good days,
keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from speaking lies.
Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
and his ears are attentive to their cry;
the face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

A righteous man may have many troubles
but the Lord delivers him from them all;
he protects all his bones,
not one of them will be broken.
Evil will slay the wicked;
the foes of the righteous will be condemned.
The Lord redeems his servants;
no one will be condemned who takes refuge in him.



Psalm 40

I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear
and put their trust in the Lord.

Blessed is the man
who makes the Lord his trust,
who does not look to the proud,
to those who turn aside to false gods.
Many, O Lord my God,
are the wonders you have done.
The things you planned for us
no one can recount to you;
were I to speak and tell of them,
they would be too many to declare.

Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but my ears you have pierced;
burnt offerings and sin offerings
you did not require.
Then I said, "Here I am, I have come--
it is written about me in the scroll.
I desire to do your will, O my God;
your law is within my heart."

I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly;
I do not seal my lips,
as you know, O Lord.
I do not hide your righteousness in my heart;
I speak of your faithfulness and salvation.
I do not conceal your love and your truth
from the great assembly.

Do not withhold your mercy from me, O Lord;
may your love and your truth always protect me.
For troubles without number surround me;
my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see.
They are more than the hairs of my head,
and my heart fails within me.

Be pleased, O Lord, to save me;
O Lord, come quickly to help me.
May all who seek to take my life
be put to shame and confusion;
may all who desire my ruin
be turned back in disgrace.
May those who say to me, "Aha! Aha!"
be appalled at their own shame.
But may all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation always say,
"The Lord be exalted!"


Yet I am poor and needy;
may the Lord think of me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
O my God, do not delay.