Category Archives: Psalms

Symbol Man

Hebrew - Beth

No worries, I am not following in the footsteps of Prince and becoming symbol man or the blogger formerly known as The Pastor. But if I were to become a symbol man or something of the sort, I like this one. Not just for is aesthetic appeal but for what this symbol refers to. So I am keeping this symbol in front of me.

So why the symbol?

The symbol is called a bet, and it is the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

O.K., that makes sense but that still leaves more questions.

Hold on, there is more.

Psalm 119 is an acrostic poem. It is broken up into 22 sections of 8 verses (one section for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet). Each verse within a particular section begins with that corresponding Hebrew letter. The section titled, bet, (the above symbol) refers to verses 9-16 which reads as follows:

(9) How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.
(10) With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!
(11) I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
(12) Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes!
(13) With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth.
(14) In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.
(15) I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.
(16) I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.

These verses caught my attention yesterday as I was preparing devotions for our local radio station; particularly verse 9 about how to keep one’s way pure.

You see, (and you really don’t need me to tell you this), our world is filled with so many distractions. Satan is on the prowl, looking for someone to devour. Just yesterday I read about a pastor who got caught up in prostitution and was arrested. He said he had a moment of “great weakness”. I am not judging him but I can’t help but wonder if that weakness was due to taking his eyes off of God; by not guarding his way according to the Word of God.

I am not suggesting that I am tempted to engage in prostitution (and I am definitely not tempted) but there are other temptations that Satan uses to attempt to draw me away from God. We all face these attacks. Some battles we win and many we lose. And in those defeats I look to another symbol; one that points to God’s incredible love and grace:

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Forgiven, I live to continue to fight the fight of faith.

How?

By guarding it a according to the Word of God; by loving God’s Law; learning it; meditating on it; memorizing it; reading it. And keeping at it, for when you drift away from reading scripture you quickly forget, because we all have very short term memories when it comes to God’s Law and the Gospel.

Guarding one’s way can not be done through clever tricks or strength of mind or simple human will power. Guarding one’s way is only done through the strength of God through the Holy Spirit. The Word of God.

And so I am going to keep this symbol in front of me as a reminder to fight the fight of faith; guarding my way according to God’s Word. And you too, Christian, fight on, going in the strength of God, guarding your way according to His Word and clinging to God’s awesome grace in Jesus Christ.

Holy God, may I always keep Your Word in front of me; that I may not turn away and go astray. But when I do go astray, retrieve me as a shepherd hunting down a lost sheep and restore me to life. It’s in Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor (a.k.a. Symbol man)  -|—

Worship Prayers ~ Majestic God

It feels good to be back at it and writing again even though I enjoyed some quality time with my children as my wife volunteered at Shetek Lutheran Ministries (Slayton, MN) this past week.

Below are my worship preparations this week (July 12). The opening prayer is something I have done before (taken from Psalm 8). I just love these words from the psalmist as they give words to my heart as some of the many reasons I worship God. So feel free to use these in whatever way brings glory to God.

May this Lord’s Day be one filled with joy as you worship this awesome and majestic God of ours. Let’s pray…

Opening Prayer
O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which YOU have set in place, what are we that you are mindful of us; that you care for us? Yet you have made us a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned us with glory and honor. You have given us dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under our feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
And that is why we worship You, oh God; Your majestic and glorious name. No other god has done or can do what You do. No other god loves us as You do. No other god has given their son that we may live. No other god is majestic or glorious or worthy of worship. And so we come praising You and seeking Your Word. Receive our worship.
O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
In Jesus most holy and majestic name we pray, Amen.

Prayers of Intercession
Holy God, majestic and wonderful, compassionate and merciful, in Your abundant mercy we ask that You may hear our prayers and give to us not according to our will but may Your will be done. May our spirits be rightly aligned with You and may our desires be wholly focused on You. May we seek You with our whole hearts and grant us to receive from most Your gracious hand.
Lord in Your mercy…“Hear our prayer”

For those caught in the cycle of poverty or homelessness or under-employment, grant relief through Your children as we live out our faith. May we see the world around us as a mission field; to share Your love and to show mercy through acts of kindness. Lord in Your mercy…“Hear our prayer”

For the Church, oh Lord. We are not just an organization that meets together but we are Your hands and feet; the body of Christ. So may we not sit idle as hurts and injustices abound. May we not turn away from our calling. May we seek to know Your holy Word better. May leaders be faithful and disciples be raised up to follow You. And may Your Gospel be boldly proclaimed. Lord in Your mercy…“Hear our prayer”

Holy God, majestic and wonderful, compassionate and merciful, receive these petitions and may we be faithful to continue to seek You day in and day out. May our lives be ones of worship, so much so, that those around us are drawn to You, not to us. All glory and honor and praise and worship be to You, oh God, through Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.

Post-Communion Blessing
May the body and blood of Jesus Christ which brings forgiveness of sins, excite and stir you to forgive others as you have been forgiven; seeking to bring praise to God and to restore relationships for the sake of the Gospel, let us pray…

Post-Communion Prayer
Bring healing to troubled souls, oh God, as we bask in the joy that Jesus Christ was given for us. Bring hope to the hopeless, life to the lifeless, purpose to the lost and joy to the downtrodden. May this holy meal drive us to long for the Great Banquet that You have prepared for all believers. Through Jesus Christ we pray, Amen.

Benediction
The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you.
The Lord look upon you with favor and grant you peace.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Avoiding the Legos

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Walking in a dark room can be a dangerous undertaking, especially in my home; one filled with toys from a 2 year old and an 8 month old. I have learned the hard lesson to never take for granted safe passage through our dark living room. I either use my smart phone or activate the screen on my Fitbit to cast just enough light to guide my path.

[In case you’re wondering why I don’t turn a lamp on – my little girl’s room is right off the living room with only French doors and a curtain to keep the light out]

And to travel through this dark world without the light of God’s Word is also a dangerous undertaking; but for far worse reasons than simply stubbing your toe or stepping on a Lego. God’s Word lights the path of righteousness that we are to walk .

“You lead me in paths of righteousness for Your name’s sake”
(Psalm 23:3)

For when darkness descends upon us, Satan is going to be quick to be a false guide to lead you away, or worse yet ~ Your adversary, the Devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour(1 Peter 5:8) It’s only the light of God’s Words that is going to reveal Satan’s evil schemes to deceive you (or devour you).

I can think of a few times in my life when darkness descended upon me but the Spirit led me to the light of God’s Word:
~ After our failed adoption I was lead to the Psalms (lament and praise)
~ After the Charleston shooting last week I was lead to 1 Corinthians 15:54-57.
~ After a rough morning with my 2 year old I was lead to Matthew 4.

God’s Word was indeed a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
God’s Word shined a light on the prowling lion waiting to devour me.
God’s Word shined a light to keep me on the right path when the path of bitterness seemed like a good way.
God’s Word shined a light on the righteousness won for me through Jesus.
God’s Word shined brightly in the darkness to cast away my fears.

So never think you know how to navigate dark times. Just because you may have been there before, never take for granted that you know the path. It’s in that complacency that you will step on the proverbial Lego and turn away. Activate the light of God’s Word in your life to avoid stepping on those Legos as you follow the path of righteousness no matter how scary the path may look; trusting God’s Word and not your fears.

Holy God, I am in awe that you would give us Your holy Word. May we use the light of Your Word to guide our way and trust the path that is revealed. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Lists of Praise

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. (Psalm 139:14 ESV)

Oh God, You are my…
Creator
Life
Hope
Salvation
Refuge
Shelter
Shield
Defense
Rock
Father
Lord
All in all
Sure foundation
Provider
Sustainer
Abba
Peace
Delight
Comfort

PRAISE BE TO GOD!

Oh God, You are…
Holy
Life
Loving
Faithful
Compassionate
Merciful
Forgiving
Just
Worthy
Powerful
Almighty
Wonderful
Caring
Wise
Trustworthy
Sovereign
Truth
Awesome
Righteous
Pure
Gracious
Precious

PRAISE BE TO GOD!

Oh God, I am…
Loved
Safe
Secure
at Peace
Thankful
Joyful
Worshipful
Content
Blessed
a Disciple
a Evangelist
Your child
Your handiwork
Your servant
Your creation

PRAISE BE TO GOD!

Oh God, I lift my praise to You. Keep me steadfast in Your Word that I may never turn aside after false gods. And may I continue to add to these lists for they do not even come close to describing You, oh God. All praise and worship be to You, through Christ Jesus my Lord, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Refuge in God

But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works. [Psalm 73:28]

Anyone can study the Bible and talk about what is in there. Anyone can memorize facts and spew them out in order to “win” a trivia contest. Anyone can memorize scripture in order to interject something into a debate/argument.  But it is only the one who places their very lives in the hands of God, through Jesus Christ, that  you can truly tell of God’s mighty works with any amount of passion and conviction.

There are many out there that preach about God. They stand in front of the masses, waving a Bible around, and tell of the mighty works of God. And these mighty works can be for you if only you believe right or give enough money to this ministry or think right or dream right. The problem is that this is not the mighty works of God that the psalmist is talking about. The mighty works of God are what God does for His children to show HIS glory; not OUR glory. God’s mighty works advances GOD’S kingdom; not OUR measly, little, weak kingdoms.

It bugs me when I hear about prosperity “gospel” preachers using the mighty works of God to advance a selfish agenda rather than to advance the kingdom of God. This kind of testimony says nothing about the truly amazing work of God; Jesus dying for sinners and rising to give eternal life to said sinners. THAT is a mighty work. And it is only truly a mighty work for you if your refuge is in the Lord God almighty through faith in Jesus. For,

it is there that you can truly see how Satan flees from the sound of Jesus’ name.
It is only in the refuge of God that true peace is known.
It is only in the refuge of God that true love in known.
It is only in the refuge of God that you can see how God is FOR YOU.
It is only in the refuge of God that true life can be known and received.

God’s mighty works can not be seen from afar, but only in the refuge of his loving arms. God is not a long distance relationship but rather an intimate, close, life-saving, cross-bearing, glory-showing relationship.

And let me tell you, for me it is good to be near God.

Mighty God, Your works are amazing, but Your work of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ is the most amazing of all. May I never stray from the refuge that in only found in You. It’s in Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

GOD IS GREAT!

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How does one not shout, “GOD IS GREAT!”, when one contemplates God’s salvation? I suppose the person who looks at salvation as a theological concept or myth to be studied. But if God’s salvation is your salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, then, “GOD IS GREAT!”, just flows out of your mouth. If it doesn’t, then maybe you don’t realize what this salvation really means.

You are a sinner condemned to hell.
You can not save yourself no matter how hard you try.
God’s wrath is something you can not escape.
You are worthy of judgement.
You have no logical defense against God.

That right there is damning. Even for this sinner, when I contemplate my rightful place before God I shudder and shake. But enter Jesus…

JESUS was born unto you.
JESUS was unjustly judged, convicted and condemned.
JESUS was sinless.
JESUS was punished, beaten and tortured.
JESUS was mocked, spit upon and sentenced to death.
JESUS crucified.
JESUS suffered greatly.
JESUS died,

for you.

But…

…JESUS rose from the dead,

for you.

Now, think about all of that. That is salvation for you. That is life for you. And if that does not bring out a shout of,”GOD IS GREAT!”, then you have no idea the gravity of your terminal disease (sin). If you are not entering worship with joy then you really don’t know this awesome God of ours. If you are not seeking God on a daily basis then you are lost; seeking for the wrong things/people.

Stop and reflect on your terminal disease.
Stop and reflect on the awesome love of God.
Stop and give thanks to Jesus.
Stop and worship.
Stop and praise God.

Stop and shout, “GOD IS GREAT!”, for the whole world to hear.

Awesome God, when I stop and reflect on my sinfulness I am in awe of the salvation Jesus won for me. I shudder to think what I am worthy of but leap for joy what you have decreed for me through faith in Jesus. Oh God, you are indeed GREAT! All praise and worship and honor and glory be to You, through Jesus Christ, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Panting and Longing (Psalm 42:1-2)

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Oh God, this world makes me weary and tired;
physically
emotionally
mentally
spiritually
And when I feel like I am just scraping by I long for something to quench that which is lacking in me.

I long to be satisfied.
I long to be quenched.
I long for You.

But why only then? Why not when I feel full and satisfied and charged? Why not then, oh God, why not then? I loathe the fact that my sinful self leads me to complacency when I feel full.

But then there are times when I am lacking that,
I seek other waters
I seek other streams
I seek other wells
and they fail to do what they promise.

Oh how foolish I am.

But You, oh God, do not fail in what You promise. You are a faithful God. You are a faithful God to give to Your children as they need. When we are lacking, you provide.

May my heart pant for you as a deer pants for flowing streams.
May my heart thirst for You.
May my soul wait for You.
May I live for You.

Oh God, this world makes me weary and tired; through my faith in Jesus Christ, when shall I come and appear before You? When shall I lie down in those green pastures and walk beside those still waters? When shall my soul be restored? When shall my cup runth over and over and over and over…

When shall I dwell in Your house forever and ever.

As a deer pants for flowing streams, so my soul pants for You.

Father God,
sustain this holy longing in me for You;
sustain my thirst for You alone;
sustain my faith and trust in You. Amen.

[pant, pant, pant…]

The Pastor -|—