Psalm 100 – Know That the Lord is God

Shout for Joy by Lucy Adams

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
    Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations. (New International Version)

The worship of God cannot be contained with one dimension of a person – their spirit. Worshiping God requires the body, mind, and emotions, as well. Anything less, is withholding praise. We are to worship with our entire being.

The original use of today’s psalm was for the ancient Israelites approaching the temple to worship God.  Before worshipers ever came into the presence of the Lord, they were preparing themselves to encounter God through giving thanks, using this very psalm.

When King David and other Hebrew writers penned their poetic songs, they centered what they most wanted to draw attention to in the middle, so that what came before it and after it pointed to that central message. The center of the psalm is:

Know that the Lord is God. Knowing God is to experience the divine through a close relationship. It means we have a place and a purpose. It is a knowing and belonging which exists deep down in our gut.

We get to know God by how he has worked in people’s lives, as well as our own. So, gatherings of believers (whether physical or virtual) are an opportunity to reinforce collective values, strengthen faith, and encourage the discouraged.

Faithful worshipers deeply desire to focus on who God is and what God has done, remembering and rehearsing divine qualities and deeds. Through this activity, we help one another know the Lord. And knowing God is what real life is all about. The Lord is worthy of all the praise, adoration, and worship we can give.

There are three imperatives (commands) that come before the middle phrase to know that the Lord is God; and three imperatives coming after it.  All six imperatives are meant to help us know God better, to give our proper praise to the Lord.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Declaring loudly of God’s gracious and loving character, expressed through right, just, and fair actions.

Worship the Lord with gladness. Kneeling and prostrating before God in humble reverence, awe, and adoration.

Come before the Lord with joyful songs. Approaching God’s throne with confidence and boldness.

Those are the three imperatives which lead us to know the Lord. 

The following three imperatives point back to know that the Lord is God:

Enter the Lord’s gates with thanksgiving. Immersing oneself in the presence of God.

Give thanks to the Lord. Giving voice in gratitude to God

Praise the name of the Lord. Declaring God’s holy name with heartfelt expression.

We belong to God. God’s people celebrate this tremendous experience of belonging with deliberate actions that put us in a position to know God better.

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. (Ephesians 1:17, NIV)

One of my all-time favorite verses in the Bible has to do with knowing God:

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.

Philippians 3:10, NIV

Everything in our lives, whether good or bad, is designed to help us know God better. Shared experiences with each other encourage Christians to keep living for Jesus. All of life, from a Christian perspective, points us to the mid-point of history, Jesus Christ, and him crucified, risen, and coming again.

And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. (John 17:3, NRSV)

So, let us express gratitude today for all the gracious ways of God’s self-revealing and reaching out to save such ones as us.

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:16-21, NIV)

Gracious and almighty God, the One who works on my behalf, give me grace to put away the rootless existence of someone who has no place; and help me to experientially know your radical acceptance and inclusion into the dance of the Trinity – Father, Son, and Spirit – one God, now and forever. Amen.

Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. (2 Peter 1:2, NIV)

Amen. Soli Deo Gloria.

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 – Jesus Is the Cornerstone

Jesus the Cornerstone by Gloria Ssali

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his steadfast love endures forever!

Let Israel say,
    “His steadfast love endures forever….”

The Lord is my strength and my might;
    he has become my salvation.

There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous:
“The right hand of the Lord does valiantly;
    the right hand of the Lord is exalted;
    the right hand of the Lord does valiantly.”
I shall not die, but I shall live,
    and recount the deeds of the Lord.
The Lord has punished me severely,
    but he did not give me over to death.

Open to me the gates of righteousness,
    that I may enter through them
    and give thanks to the Lord.

This is the gate of the Lord;
    the righteous shall enter through it.

I thank you that you have answered me
    and have become my salvation.
The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the chief cornerstone.
This is the Lord’s doing;
    it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the Lord has made;
    let us rejoice and be glad in it. (New Revised Standard Version)

God is the expert on turning our song of lament into a song of victory.

From the Christian perspective of the Lord’s resurrection from death, it is a great song of celebration. The horrid torture and death of Christ on Friday turned to wonderful rejoicing on Sunday with a risen Lord. Life is now different with an empty tomb. The stone the builders rejected is now the head cornerstone.

Our worship is transformed. Instead of offering the blood of bulls and goats, like the select group of the Old Testament priests did, we are now all priests who now offer spiritual sacrifices because Jesus took care of the sin issue once for all. 

Christians continually offer to God their worship of Christ and live a holy life in grateful response to Christ’s death and resurrection.

Jesus is our cornerstone, the center of life and worship. Priority for the Christian faithful is allowing God to build us into a community of faith that worships Jesus with lives dedicated to knowing him and making him known.

Christian worship is the expression of a relationship in which God the Father reveals himself and his love in Christ, and by his Holy Spirit gives grace, to which we respond in faith, gratitude, and obedience. 

That means all of life (and not just a Sunday morning worship service) is to be a daily rhythm of God’s revelation to us, and our response to God in faith, thanksgiving, and an obedient life.

People, at their core, exists for worship. For the Christian, worship is grounded in the triune God and centered in Christ. Worship is the heart and life response to the revelation of God in Christ. Encounters and experiences of God’s revelation to humanity, and our response, form us into faithful disciples.

Author and Pastor Emeritus, Stuart Briscoe, once told the following story: 

“Many years ago, during the Cold War, I traveled to Poland for several weeks of itinerant ministry. One winter day my sponsors drove me in the dead of night to the middle of nowhere. I walked into a dilapidated building crammed with one hundred young people. I realized it was a unique opportunity. Through an interpreter I preached on maintaining Christ as the center of our lives as Christians.

Ten minutes into my message, the lights went out. Pitch black. My interpreter urged me to keep talking. Unable to see my notes or read my Bible, I continued. After I had preached in the dark for twenty minutes, the lights suddenly blinked on, and what I saw startled me: Everyone was on their knees, and they remained there for the rest of my message. The next day I commented on this to one man, and he said, ‘After you left, we stayed on our knees most of the night. We wanted to make sure we were remaining in Christ and centering our lives in him.’”

Since Jesus is the cornerstone, the center of our devotion, worship does not center in a style or an outcome. We may too often evaluate worship on whether or not it works, or if it emotionally moves us because of a particular musical or liturgical style. Whenever worship is designed for our tastes and preferences, Jesus Christ, as the center of worship, can easily be lost. 

With Christ as the chief cornerstone, the true object of worship, all kinds of differing styles can be pleasing to God. Worship itself is to be evaluated not by the satisfaction of personal preference, but by its acceptance by God.

Firmly built on Christ the cornerstone, worship becomes less about gaining truth, and more about letting truth gain us and capture us. The more we pay attention to the presence of Jesus Christ through song, prayer, Scripture, and sacrament, the more we will experience the centrality and power of God. True worship captures God’s heart and passion for the world. Jesus becomes very precious to us when we align ourselves to him as the cornerstone of our faith and worship.

So, brothers and sisters, because of God’s mercies, I encourage you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God. This is your appropriate priestly service.

Romans 12:1, CEB

We build our lives on Jesus, the cornerstone of our faith, every day. Pleasing worship is both the responsibility and the privilege of every believer. We are embodied beings; we speak through vocal chords; we move with our legs; we act with our arms; we cannot communicate nor do the will of God apart from our bodies. 

Jesus, as the cornerstone upon which all is supported, means that acceptable worship can happen anywhere. Everywhere can become a sanctuary and a sacred space – home, neighborhood, and marketplace – as well as church. In all these locations, Christian discipleship will prove itself.

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.

Ephesians 2:19-22, NRSV

Several years ago, a man named Matt had an aunt who had struggled for years to make ends meet. When her health started to decline, she was forced to sell her fifty acres of property to pay for health care. As an act of kindness, Matt traveled to Massachusetts and bought the land from his aunt for the appraised value of $50,000. While exploring the land to see about building a house, he discovered outcroppings of stone ledges.

Matt contracted a geologist, who surveyed the land and informed him the stone was actually Goshen stone, a type of mica used for sidewalks, patios, and landscapes. At the time, it sold for $100 a ton – and Matt had about 24 million tons on the land. The appraised value on the surface was $50,000, but some experts estimated that the land was possibly worth up to $2 billion.

Jesus is the precious cornerstone. He is much too valuable to be left in a church building. And there is so much more to him than surface appearances. Let God drill deep into your life and show you the infinite worth of Jesus Christ. Explore him. Worship him. Offer your very life to him. Shape yourself around him. Center all things completely in and around Jesus. Discover just how precious he is. Let your love be long for Christ.

Lord Jesus, Son of God, Son of Humanity, have mercy upon us.

Psalm 105:1-42 – Getting Rid of the “Meh”

Praise the Lord
    and pray in his name!
    Tell everyone
    what he has done.
Sing praises to the Lord!
    Tell about his miracles.
Celebrate and worship
his holy name
    with all your heart.

Trust the Lord
    and his mighty power.
Remember his miracles
and all his wonders
    and his fair decisions.
You belong to the family
    of Abraham, his servant;
    you are his chosen ones,
    the descendants of Jacob.

The Lord is our God,
    bringing justice
    everywhere on earth.
He will never forget
his agreement or his promises,
    not in thousands of years.
God made an eternal promise
    to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,
    when he said, “I’ll give you
    the land of Canaan.”

At the time there were
only a few of us,
    and we were homeless.
We wandered from nation
to nation,
    from one country
    to another.
God did not let anyone
    mistreat our people.
Instead he protected us
    by punishing rulers
    and telling them,
“Don’t touch my chosen leaders
    or harm my prophets!”

God kept crops from growing
    until food was scarce
    everywhere in the land.
But he had already sent Joseph,
    sold as a slave into Egypt,
    with chains of iron
    around his legs and neck.

Joseph remained a slave
until his own words
    had come true,
    and the Lord had finished
    testing him.
Then the king of Egypt
    set Joseph free
    and put him in charge
    of everything he owned.
Joseph was in command
    of the officials,
    and he taught the leaders
    how to use wisdom.

Jacob and his family
came
    and settled in Egypt
    as foreigners.
They were the Lord’s people,
    so he let them grow stronger
    than their enemies.
They served the Lord,
and he made the Egyptians plan
    hateful things against them.
God sent his servant Moses.
He also chose and sent Aaron
    to his people in Egypt,
    and they worked miracles
    and wonders there.
Moses and Aaron obeyed God,
    and he sent darkness
    to cover Egypt.
God turned their rivers
into streams of blood,
    and the fish all died.
Frogs were everywhere,
    even in the royal palace.
When God gave the command,
    flies and gnats
    swarmed all around.

In place of rain,
God sent hailstones
    and flashes of lightning.
He destroyed their grapevines
    and their fig trees,
    and he made splinters
    of all the other trees.
God gave the command,
and more grasshoppers came
    than could be counted.
They ate every green plant
    and all the crops that grew
    in the land of Egypt.
Then God took the life
    of every first-born son.

When God led Israel from Egypt,
    they took silver and gold,
    and no one was left behind.
The Egyptians were afraid
    and gladly let them go.
God hid them under a cloud
    and guided them by fire
    during the night.

When they asked for food,
    he sent more birds
    than they could eat.
God even split open a rock,
    and streams of water
    gushed into the desert.
God never forgot
his sacred promise
    to his servant Abraham. (Contemporary English Version)

This morning, did you get up on the wrong side of the bed? Or did you awake feeling refreshed and ready to seize the day?

Maybe it was neither. Seems like, most days, we are neither energized nor grumpy. We are somewhere in the middle, feeling something like “meh.” 

Just as the importance of a decent breakfast is necessary to get a good start on the day, so beginning the day with some good spiritual food is a must to fortify our lives and set them on a solid trajectory for personal happiness and blessing the world. 

We cannot simply rely on feeding upon God when we feel like it, for then we will succumb to all the vicissitudes and variegations of life, becoming a slave to the almighty “meh.” 

As we get out of bed and orient ourselves from sleep to work, we need to tend to our spiritual selves and prepare for the day, just as we need to daily clean up our bodies and begin focusing our minds on our future tasks.

One way of taking charge of our spiritual lives is beginning the day with some vitamin-packed whole grain goodness of the biblical psalms. 

Today’s psalm calls on us to:

  • Give thanks to God
  • Call upon the name of the Lord
  • Make known the mighty deeds of God
  • Sing to the Lord
  • Glory in God’s name
  • Seek the Lord
  • Remember God’s wondrous works 

Feeding upon the psalms will help shoo the “meh” away.

God faithfully keeps all divine promises. As we recall and remember those promises, realizing that God remembers us, praise, singing, and thanksgiving arise along with our bodies. The Lord never has a “meh” response to us.

Perhaps before even getting out of bed in the morning, we can reach over, grab our Bible, tablet, or smartphone and read these words of Psalm 105 so that our day is formed around the positive promises of God and not the negative thoughts of our minds. 

And at night, the same ritual could be done before falling asleep so that our day is bookended with remembering God’s works. For the Bible is not simply some old book to adore from afar, but a living word from God to shape our minds and form our hearts.

The “meh” comes when there is a famine of God’s Word. Whenever we find ourselves saying things like, “Not my circus, not my monkeys,” or “I’m sleeping until I feel better,” then its time to cozy up to the psalmist and have a heart-to-heart.

You’ll be glad you did.

God almighty, you have remembered your people throughout the millennia with wondrous works and powerful deeds. Today I give thanks to you for giving your Son, the Lord Jesus, and accomplishing the mightiest work of all: securing my deliverance from sin, death, and hell. May the Name of Jesus be praised! Amen.

Psalm 145 – Some Solid Robust Theology

Psalm 145:14 by Jen Norton

I will praise you,
my God and King,
    and always honor your name.
I will praise you each day
    and always honor your name.
You are wonderful, Lord,
    and you deserve all praise,
because you are much greater
    than anyone can understand.

Each generation will announce
to the next
    your wonderful
    and powerful deeds.
I will keep thinking about
your marvelous glory
    and your mighty miracles.
Everyone will talk about
    your fearsome deeds,
    and I will tell all nations
    how great you are.
They will celebrate and sing
    about your matchless mercy
    and your power to save.

You are merciful, Lord!
    You are kind and patient
    and always loving.
You are good to everyone,
    and you take care
    of all your creation.

All creation will thank you,
    and your loyal people
    will praise you.
They will tell about
    your marvelous kingdom
    and your power.
Then everyone will know about
    the mighty things you do
    and your glorious kingdom.
Your kingdom will never end,
    and you will rule forever.

Our Lord, you keep your word
    and do everything you say.
When someone stumbles or falls,
    you give a helping hand.
Everyone depends on you,
and when the time is right,
    you provide them with food.
By your own hand
    you satisfy
    the desires of all who live.

Our Lord, everything you do
    is kind and thoughtful,
    and you are near to everyone
    whose prayers are sincere.
You satisfy the desires
    of all your worshipers,
    and you come to save them
    when they ask for help.
You take care of everyone
who loves you,
    but you destroy the wicked.

I will praise you, Lord,
    and everyone will respect
    your holy name forever. (Contemporary English Version)

These days, everywhere I go there is high anxiety, even downright fear. In my city, the highest murder rate in its history marked the past year. In the hospital for which I am the chaplain, the coronavirus with all its deathly strains is bringing grief and bereavement to many families. Within many churches, their future viability is in question, and parishioners wonder about the future.

When there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel, with apprehension and stress as the very air we breathe, there is an angle to the whole situation the psalmist wants us to consider. We are to give weight and consideration to some solid robust theology.

Everyone has a theology. All persons have some sort of understanding of a god, G-d, or no god at all. In the hard circumstances of life, it might seem as if our theology isn’t serving us well. We may feel as if G-d is aloof, distant, or just plain disinterested. So, let’s pay attention to the psalmist. Notice his theology….

The Lord saves… is merciful… powerful… kind… patient… loving… and good. G-d keeps divine promises… helps… gives… provides… protects… and is near to those who humbly seek the divine. In short, the Lord cares for all creation and all creatures, including you and me, and tackles injustice like a hefty linebacker on a string-bean running back.

Yes, G-d deserves all praise, glory, and honor because standing behind all the anxiety of the age is a very large deity who acts with good purpose.

Let this psalm (and the entire psalter) buoy you up with good solid theology because the Lord is righteous in all dealings and is present to all who call for help. G-d hears. G-d responds. Perhaps neither according to our idea of timeliness nor to our expectation. Yet, deliverance is at hand, even if it comes in a form different than we were anticipating.

I am taking time to read today’s psalm several times over, to let it awash my soul with significant doses of truth and mercy. There are simply times when all of us need to remember and be reminded that there is a G-d in heaven who is willing and able, as well as a friend close at hand. 

True human satisfaction does not come through personal ingenuity or accumulation of more knowledge or more stuff.  Rather, our deepest desires and needs are fulfilled in the G-d who cares.

Anxiety, stress, fear, and apprehension don’t simply melt away. We, like the psalmist, need to practice the active verbs within the text: I will praise you… I will always honor your name… I will keep thinking about your marvelous glory and miracles… I will tell all nations how great you are… because the Lord saves and satisfies.

May that be your experience today, and every day.

Mighty G-d, you are both far and near, totally above us, yet close at hand.  Preserve me with your mighty power so that I might not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity. But in all I do direct me to the fulfilling of your purposes through Jesus Christ, my Lord.  Amen.