Are You a Mountain Dweller?

From Psalm 15:

“Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
Who may live on your holy mountain?”

Who may live on the Lord’s holy mountain?  “The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from their heart.”

At first pass, this answer can be discouraging, for “Who can say, ‘I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin’ ”? (Proverbs 20.9).  Then we remember Christ Jesus, who lived a sinless life, fulfilling the Law; whose righteousness is credited to us who believe.

Hallelujah – we’re in! We can approach the throne of grace with confidence! (Hebrews 4.16).  But we’re not off the hook…

Before we boast of being ‘mountain dwellers,’ we need to read the rest of Psalm 15, which goes on to describe the characteristics of the mountain dweller:

  • speaks the truth from their heart;
  • tongue utters no slander,
  • does no wrong to a neighbor,
  • casts no slur on others;
  • despises a vile person, but honors those who fear the Lord;
  • keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change their mind;
  • lends money to the poor without interest;
  • does not accept a bribe against the innocent

These characteristics point to how we treat one another.  They are not acts that we must perform to earn a place on God’s holy mountain; they are the fruits or evidence that we are indeed dwelling on God’s holy mountain.

Jesus reinforced this thought when he spoke to his disciples in the upper room:

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples,
if you love one another.”
– John 13.35

Treating each other as described in the Psalm is the evidence that will be weighed by those around us. Conversely, if we don’t treat each other with love, that will also serve as evidence to be weighed by those around us.

Are we dwelling on God’s holy mountain?  If so, the evidence will be found in how we treat each other.

Who are you afraid of?

Read Psalm 27.

“The Lord is my light and my salvation…the Lord is the stronghold of my life…”

David opens with a declaration; and with that declaration, he asks the questions,
“whom shall I fear? Of whom shall I be afraid?”

David is not boasting that he is tough and fearless; if you read the other Psalms, you will see that he is anything but.  David is telling us where his confidence lies.  Because the Lord is his light and salvation; because the Lord is the stronghold of his life, there is no need to be afraid of anyone.

When the wicked come – and they will come – to devour (or slander); when they come in numbers to wage war, David says, “my heart will not fear.”  There is no fear of man.

Granted, we are not in David’s situation; none of us here is a ruler of a nation, where war and assassination are real threats. We are just everyday people who go to school, or work (or both). What is there for us to be afraid of?  Who are we afraid of?

As followers of Christ, we must realize that we have enemies; the main one being the devil, who “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Pet. 5:8).  We can however, walk in the confidence that “the one who is in [us] is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4.4b).

But there are other things that we are afraid of that may not be as obvious.  What are they?

The opinions of others, such as classmates, coworkers and even family members; peer pressure or political correctness at school, work or among friends can place in us a fear of being rejected, hated or labeled as intolerant.  This kind of fear can be a snare to us if we give in to it, as it keeps us from speaking or standing for Christ when we should.

“Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.”- Proverbs 29:25

Fear of man traps us in embarrassment and timidity. Instead of being bold witnesses for Christ, we become quiet faint of heart; at its worst, fear of man can keep us from obeying God.

In David, we have an example of what it means to be free of the fear of man.  With his confidence completely in the Lord; David was free to pursue the Lord, to “dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of [his] life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.” David is free to sacrifice with shouts of joy; he can sing and make music to the Lord, despite the presence of his enemies.  In the New Testament, we see Paul and Silas singing hymns of praise in the Philippian jail, despite being beaten and having their feet in chains (Acts 16).  There was no fear of man; there was only the presence of the Lord.

God wants us to be free from the fear of man; he wants us to be able to be joyful, making melody in our hearts to him, despite the presence of those who would mock, reject and even persecute us.  Let us cast off that fear of man “tor the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” (2 Tim. 1.7).

Unrestrained Mercy, Unrestrained Praise

Psalm 40.1-11

God does not restrain his mercy toward us.

The apostle Paul tells us that God has lavished the riches of his grace on us (Eph. 1:7-8); the apostle John tells us that God has lavished his great love on us (1 John 3.1).

And here in this Psalm we see the results of that unrestrained mercy:

“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.”

In the light of God’s unrestrained mercy, we are challenged to ask ourselves: Have we restrained our lips?  Have we held back from proclaiming his saving acts to one another? Have we hidden his love and faithfulness from one another?

God does not restrain himself when it comes to his love and his mercy toward us.  He has turned to us; he has heard our cry; he has lifted us up out of the mud and given us a firm place to stand. He protects us; he preserves us; he keeps us.  As we read earlier this week, “He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Cor. 1.8-9).  “If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself.” (2 Tim 2.13).

Let our time together (and apart) ever reflect God’s unrestrained mercy and love toward us.

Let us be unrestrained in our thanks and praise, for it is as we do that, that “many will see and fear the Lord, and put their trust in him.”

Without a Doubt

(Read Luke 2:1-14)

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
(Luke 2:11)

I love the specificity of this account.  Luke, who was writing an “orderly account” of the events surrounding the life of Christ gives us specific, historically verifiable information regarding the birth of Christ.  He gives us a time frame and names (“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus…when Quirinius was governor of Syria…”); he also gives us an occasion (“a census”).

Luke gives us background information on Joseph. He tells us where Joseph lives, (“from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth”), and he gives us Joseph’s family lineage (“he was of the house and lineage of David”).

In other words, Luke is telling us: this is what happened; this is when and where it happened; this is who it happened to, and why it happened to them. There was research; there were interviews from eyewitnesses to the actual events.  Luke’s gospel is an investigative report.  Luke was conducting an investigation so that Theophilus would “have certainty” of the things he had been taught.  Theophilus would be left without a doubt.

Then we have the announcement of the angel to the shepherds in the field. The revelation to the shepherds came with a ‘when’ (‘this day’) and ‘where’ (‘in the city of David’), a ‘what’ (‘a baby…lying in a manger’) and a ‘who’ (‘a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’)

The long-awaited Messiah was clearly revealed.  He was revealed by an angel from heaven, accompanied by the glory of the Lord, and followed by praises to God from a multitude of the heavenly host. There was no doubt, there was no confusion in the angel’s message:  The Messiah has come.  Heaven came to earth to point the way to the Savior.  Hallelujah!

Meanwhile in Matthew’s Gospel, there was someone else who needed to have his doubts removed:  Joseph, the husband of Mary.  His betrothed wife was with child – and not by him. (Questions of Jesus’ paternity would follow him into adulthood – you know how people are).

It took an angel from heaven to tell Joseph that his wife was carrying one conceived by the Holy Spirit; he was THE ONE who would save his people from their sins.

From the time of Moses (and even before then) and through the time of the prophets, a Savior – the Messiah – was promised in the Scriptures. Many Jews like Simeon and Anna, who were at the temple when Jesus was presented (Luke 2), were waiting for the salvation of Israel.  Before them were countless others who “though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised.” (Hebrews 11.39).

But we have received what was promised.  Not only do we have the writings of Moses and the prophets, we have the account of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. We have the account of the early church. We have the teaching of the apostles. We have the Scriptures, “written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15.4)

Like Luke’s friend Theophilus, we can have certainty concerning Christ; may this Christmas find us without a doubt.

Merry Christmas!

Call to Worship – Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength,
    An ever-present help in trouble.…

God is not an abstract helper; He is not a thought or concept that we use as a coping mechanism to see us through difficult times.  He is present – not just present, but actively present.

God does not passively observe the things that happen on earth and in our lives. He is sovereign; he does whatever pleases Him (Psalm 115.3).  He is actively working out everything to its proper end—even the wicked for a day of disaster (Prov. 16.3). He is with us in every circumstance; there is no place that we can go where God is not (Psalm 139.7-12). He does not take a break; he neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psalm 121.4).

That is why the psalmist writes, “therefore we will not fear though the earth give way; though the “nations are in uproar [and] kingdoms fall,” the city of God and the people of God will not be moved.  The things that we see happening in the earth that strike fear into the hearts of men are all part of God’s workings.

What do we need to know?  We need only to know that the Lord Almighty is with us…he is our fortress.

What do we need to do? We need only to be still, and know that He is God; He will be exalted among the nations.

He is indeed a mighty fortress!

The Call to Worship – Psalm 8

“O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

When the name of the LORD passes our lips, is it accompanied by the majesty that goes with it?

• Is it accompanied by thanks and praise?
• Is it spoken with fear and reverence?
• Is it spoken to others – to let them know of His majesty?

Nowadays His name has become an exclamation point; His name has been used to curse others; His name has been used to express everything but His majesty.

“You have set your glory above the heavens.”

There is something beyond the heavens; when we look up and take a moment to take in the majesty of God’s creation in the heavens, those very heavens are telling us that there is something beyond them. It is the glory of God!

Psalm 19.1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”

“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?”

While we can marvel at the fact that we have been made a little lower than the heavenly beings and given dominion over the works of his hands, we must always remember that we are part of God’s creation. We have not been created to celebrate our own greatness or awesomeness; we were created to celebrate and proclaim His.

“O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

Let us be a people whose lips proclaim the majesty of God!

The Call to Worship – Psalm 84

Call to Worship – Psalm 84

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… (v.1-2)

To worship at the temple was the greatest joy of the psalmist, to the point where his soul longed – even fainted for the courts of the Lord.  Elsewhere, he writes:

As a deer pants for flowing streams,
    so pants my soul for you, O God. (Ps. 42.1)

His thirst is for God himself.  Jesus expressed this same longing during his time on earth when he said, ““My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” The worshiper’s longing for God surpasses even the desire for the things that we need to sustain usGod himself is the prize.

To worship at the temple meant a journey of at least a day; worship at the temple was required for the appointed feasts, but it was not seen as a duty by the psalmist.

Being in the presence of the Lord was worth whatever effort we need to make.

The psalmist writes, “Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise!” For us in Christ, God’s spirit now dwells in us.

How blessed we are!