Monday, September 28, 2009

Praise the Lord

The theme of Psalm 135 is praising God.  It provides many reasons why God is worthy of our praise and why giving our praise to anything else, the idols that may exist in our lives, is futile.  God deserves our praise because of His goodness to His children and His sovereignty over creation and all world events.

Verse 1 is a call to worship.  The psalmist used the Hebrew word, halal, for the word "praise".  Halal means to boast, to rave, to celebrate, to commend, to make a show; this is what we should be doing -- bragging to others about what God has done for us and for His goodness and greatness.  (The Holman Christian Standard Bible uses the word "Hallelujah" in the place of the word "praise".  Hallelujah means praises the Lord; the Greek form of hallelujah is alleluia.) 

Verse 2 reveals who the call to worship is for -- those who "stand in the house of the Lord" or those who serve in the Lord's house (the priests and Levities) and those "in the courts of the house of our God" or the Israelite laity (the Hebrews).  The Hebrew laypersons were prohibited from entering the court of the priests or the holy place.

Verse 3 contains the first reason for praising the Lord -- because He is good.  "The people of Israel knew His name.  Knowing God's name implies having a right relationship with Him."  (Explore the Bible Adult Learner Guide, Fall 2009, p. 37).  Those who know God as their Heavenly Father know His name and have access to Him for worship and prayer.  What keeps us away from God is our sin, pride and the idols we allow to exist in our lives.

Verse 4 reminds us that we as God children were chosen by him not because of anything we did or will do, but because of his infinite and unfailing love for us.  He considers each of his children as "a treasured possession.  Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary states that "If they [believers] do not praise him for this distinguishing favour, they are the most unworthy and ungrateful of all people." 
Verse 5 provides two more reasons for praising the Lord -- He is great and He is greater than any other gods!  To praise God properly, He should be the center of all of our attention.

In verse 6 the psalmist reveals that God's sovereignty has no limits.  Whatever God chooses to do throughout the world is good and just.  Any idol created by man will be limited in power because its creator, man, is also limited. 

Verse 7 details God's work in nature through rain, wind and lightening while verses 8 through 12 tell of God's provisions for the Israelites, including the miracles He performed on their behalf on their way from Egypt to the promised land.  These verses together shows God's greatness and yet more reasons God should be praised.  Like the Israelites we can look back and see the times that God has led us through difficulties, provided a way out when one did not seem in sight, helped us fight our battles and performed miracles on our behalf.  Thus, we too have reason to praise God for the goodness He has shown us during our lives and for His greatness.  "A fresh awareness of God's greatness in creation and history can prompt His people today to praise Him too."  (Explore the Bible Adult Learner Guide, Fall 2009, p. 39).

Verses 13 and 14 contain more reasons to praise God.  His name and reputation are enduring throughout the ages.  God is not bound by time; He is infinite.  He is a just God and will render judgment upon those that oppose Him.  As a child of God, you can rest easy and leave venegance in the hands of the Lord because He will not let the wicked go unpunished.  This is because God is merciful; if you are suffering for doing good and/or at the hands of the wicked, remember God sees your pain and will sustain and deliver you and continue to praise Him.

Verses 15 through 18 warn against idolatry.  An idol is anything that takes God's place in our lives and can be a material possession, a relationship, a career, power, status, health, appearance, entertainment and leisure to name just a few.  All idols are inferior to God.  Even if the idols are fashioned with valuable materials, the idol itself is worthless because it is a temporal object.  The idols made by the Israelites had mouths, ears and eyes.  However, they could speak, see hear or breath; they were without life.  By contrast, God can speak to us at anytime He desires, He hears us everytime we utter a sound and He always has His eyes on us and can even see inside our hearts to know our deepest thoughts and motives.  He is a living God who is eternal.

Verse 18 states that those who make idols and those who trust in idols are like the idols themselves.  That is, there are spiritually dead.  They cannot hear God speak or see Him as He reveals Himself through nature, His provisions to them, the mercy He has given them by withholding His judgment and through the many miracles He performs each day in their lives.   

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Seeing the Connection

O. S. Hawkins in The Art of Connecting states that every person has three connections: a connection with God, a connection with self and a connection with others.  He went on to say, "We will never be properly related to others until we are properly related to ourselves and we will never be properly related to ourselves until we are properly related to God."

The Eternal Connection
God wants to have a relationship with man like no other creation.  Only when we connect with God are we able to do the work He created us for.  Without God's help we are not able to connect anything of any value. (John 15:4-5)

Philemon 3 reveals three ways we relate to our eternal connection:  as our Heavenly Father who loves and supports us His children; as our Lord who has authority over us and we are His servants; and as Christ who died for our sins.


Internal Connection

A positive self-image will occur when we are relating to God wholeheartedly and love Him so much that we are willing to give up anything for Him, including our identity.  We willing identify ourselves as His children and servants.  When you get to this point, you no longer need the things of this world or its approval to build up your self-esteem because you now realize and accept that God's opinion of you and your life is the only one that matters.  You will begin to connect with yourself in a proper manner when you see yourself as God sees you:  precious, dearly loved, a one of a kind masterpiece.


External Connection
Philemon 1 and 2 shows how we connect with others: as family, as friends and as fellow soliders.  In each of these ways, there is a sense of community and camaraderie.  In order to maintain that fellowship we should refrain from any action that destorys others and our connection with them, such as judging, criticism and slander.  As Christians, we should seek to build each other up, be encouragers and support others in any way possible.  We should be the personification of godly love.

Unfortunately, we do not always connect with others and God as we should.  Our failure to connect properly reveals our weaknesses and flaws.  Failing to see yourself as a servant of God may be a symptom of a problem with pride.  Your tendency to put down others reveal your insecurities and poor self-esteem.  The world would have you believe that you cannot change, and if you are an untrusting, critical person that is what you will always be, but that is a lie. 

What needs to happen is to ask the Holy Spirit reveal areas in your relationship with God and with others that you need to work on.   If you ask, He will show you what you need to know.  Next, take responsibility for your actions and ask God for forgiveness for any sins.  Begin to work on your relationship with Him which will require time, sacrifice, committment and energy.  You will never finish this step; it will be a live long process because this one relationship will effect everything else, how you relate to yourself and to others. 

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