Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs

September 27

Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs

Today’s Scripture Reading: Psalms 106:40-48 | Isaiah 51:1-53:12 | Ephesians 5:1-33 | Proverbs 24:7 

Today’s Scripture Focus: Ephesians 5:1-33

“Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:18b-19 NIV)

One good indicator of a life lived in the fullness of the Spirit is a joyful, singing heart. When the Holy Spirit is really in control, he fills you with joy and he fills your heart with singing. Life lived in the flesh doesn’t produce joyful songs, but life in the Spirit always does.

Life lived with eyes focused on circumstances often drags down our spirit, but life lived with eyes focused on Jesus is likely to lead us to singing.

When we try to remain in control, our lives are filled with anxious worry. When we surrender to his control, we are able to sing again.

What type of songs will you sing? “Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” In other words, sing all kinds of songs.

If a distinction is to be made between them, the psalms are heartfelt expressions covering nearly every circumstance of life and expressing nearly every emotion.  From lament to praise; from sorrow to joy; from times of feeling distant and alone to times of intimacy in his presence; From songs that celebrate God’s faithfulness in the past to songs that look for God’s justice in the future. Through the ages, the psalms have served as a prayerbook that teaches us to pray; a songbook that teaches us to praise.

Hymns certainly includes those well-thought out songs that express our theology. They bring depth to our worship and engage our mind to worship in truth. They keep us anchored to the historic Christian faith.

Spiritual songs are often the simple, sometimes spontaneous songs, which flow from the Spirit. The best ones get passed on to others through worship songs. Simple, heartfelt and God-focused, they express our praise in our heart language. Spirit connects to spirit and song is birthed. We worship in spirit and in truth.

Be filled with the Spirit and sing; let your heart be filled with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs!

Lord, fill me with your Spirit anew and afresh, and fill my heart with singing. Amen.

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I Have Not Forgotten You

September 26

I Have Not Forgotten You

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 106:32-39 | Isaiah 48:12-50:11 | Ephesians 4:17-32 | Proverbs 24:5-6

Today’s Scripture Focus: Isaiah 49

But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me” (Isaiah 49:14 ESV).

Have you ever wondered if God had forgotten about you? Sometimes our prayers seem to go on unanswered for so long that we think he has forgotten us. Sometimes the circumstances of our lives are difficult and painful and we wonder how God could ever allow us to go through such a thing.

There are times that we wonder. There are times we may even say it: “The LORD has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.” It may be a statement that is true to our feelings, but it is never really true. God never forgets his people. He never forsakes us.

Isaiah goes on to say: “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold I have engraved you on the palms of my hands” (49:15-16a).

How could a young mother forget her newborn baby? How could she fail to have compassion? God says that he will remember us and have compassion on us even more surely than a young mother who cares for her newborn child.

God may seem to hide for a time, but he has not forsaken you. He has not forgotten you. You are his child and he cares for you with the same loving affection given by a mother to her young child.

Father, thank you for being there and loving me even when I am unaware of your presence, even when I may feel that you have forgotten about me. In those times I can not feel  your presence, help me to rest in the truth that you are there and love me like a young mother who cares for her newborn child. Amen.

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Thank You for Your Support

September 25

Thank You for Your Support!

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 106:24-31 | Isaiah 45:11-48:11 | Ephesians 4:1-16 | Proverbs 24:3-4

From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work (Ephesians 4:16 NIV). 

We each have a vital role to play in the body of Christ. Each of us is gifted for ministry. The leadership gifts (like pastor-teacher) are given in large part to equip the body (all of us) to do the work of the ministry. We don’t sit in a pew and pay the pastor to do the work. The “up-front gifts” are given to equip those with the “behind the scenes gifts” to join those “up-front” in the work of ministry. Listen carefully to Paul: “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, [12] to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up [13] until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-13).

That is a beautiful picture of a healthy church. It is a picture of a church operating as it was intended to. Notice the results: the body is built up, there is unity, there is maturity, there is growth. 

In addition to using our gifts in ministry, we are also to do our part in ministering to each other—caring for each other. Each of us is a supporting ligament in the body. Each of us has a part to play. When someone is hurting, you are a supporting ligament—someone needs you.

The healthy church is one where each member recognizes their role and where each part does its work. Imagine a body where only one arm was trying to do all the work. Little of value is accomplished. A healthy body requires a coordinated effort of all the parts. What is your part?

By the way, thanks for your support. I don’t know what I’d do without a supporting ligament like you!

Lord, help me to find my place and use my gifts in my local body of Christ. Help me to be an encouragement to others and support them in their time of need. Thank you for my brothers and sisters in Christ. Amen.

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He is Doing a New Thing

September 24

He Is Doing A New Thing

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 106:13-23 | Isaiah 43:14 – 45:10 | Ephesians 3:1-21 | Proverbs 24:1-2

Today’s Scripture Focus: Isaiah 43-45

“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:19 NIV).

Your situation is never hopeless with God. He is the God of new things.When there seems to be no hope, he opens a new opportunity.

He is the God who makes a way in the wilderness. In the wilderness you are tried and tested. You may feel alone and desperate. It may seem like you’ll be stuck in the wilderness forever. But God will not leave you there forever. When the time is right, he will make a way.

He is the God who is able to make a river spring up in the middle of a desert. Feeling dry and thirsty? In a moment, he can form a river in the most unlikely place.

He cares for you even in the desert–even in the wilderness. His purpose in all this is that you will sing him songs of praise. “For I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself that might declare my praise.”

Maybe you have been waiting for the rain and the thirst is nearly unbearable. Hear his words to you: “Fear not, for I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground.” He hasn’t forgotten about you. The rains will come. He is about to do a new thing. Look for it.

Heavenly Father, open my eyes to all you are doing. When things seem stale, and I seem stuck, I look for you to do something new. When I am desperate and trapped, I need you to do something new. So God, work in my life in a fresh way today that I might drink from the springs of your goodness and that praise might spring up from within me. Amen.

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He Holds Your Hand

September 23

He Holds Your Hand

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 106:6-12 | Isaiah 41:17-43:13 | Ephesians 2:1-22 | Proverbs 23:29-35

Today’s Scripture Focus: Isaiah 41-43

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flames shall not consume you” (Isaiah 43:1b-2 ESV).

There are times when we really need the comfort and reassurance of our Father’s hand holding on to ours. Remember when you were a child and feeling scared, how good it was to feel the grasp of your father’s loving, strong hand? Life brings many situations where we feel lost and alone. These scriptures remind us that when we don’t know which way to go, God holds our hand as he leads us. And when we encounter difficulties, He protects us from the dangers that surround.

Then with his hand firmly clasped around ours, he comforts us with these words: “Do not fear; I will help you. Do not be afraid for I myself will help you” (41:13-14). “Fear not, for I have redeemed you: I have called you by name, you are mine” (43:1-2).

Whatever your trial, know that your heavenly Father is holding on to your hand. He is there and won’t let you go. Don’t be afraid. He is there to help you. When his hand is clasping yours, any place is a safe place. As we walk together, he brings Comfort and hope to any situation we may face.

He knows your name. He holds your hand. He will lead you through the deep water; and protect you from the fiery trials. Hold on to his hand. He won’t let go. Isn’t it good to know we are not alone?

Father, thank you for walking with me, guiding me and upholding me by your strong and loving hands. Be with me through the trials, strengthen me, help me, protect me. But most of all, remind me that you are with me. Amen.

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Soaring on Eagle’s Wings

September 22

Soaring on Eagle’s Wings

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 106:1-5 | Isaiah 39:1-41:16 | Ephesians 1:1-23 | Proverbs 23:25-28

Today’s Scripture Focus: Isaiah 40

“But they who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength, they will mount up with wings like eagles” (Isaiah 40:31 NIV).

I was by a beach one day looking up into the sky when I noticed an eagle soaring. It was a particularly windy day, and he seemed to be playfully enjoying his strength as he soared against the strong currents of wind. Without a flap of his wings, he would soar until he almost stopped—until he almost lost momentum. Then he would turn around and ride the wind for a while, only to turn again and soar against the wind.

I was immediately reminded of this verse. As we wait in hope—seeking him expectantly—he renews our strength. God gives us the ability to walk when we grow tired—the ability to run when all our strength is gone. He even gives us the ability to soar against all the gusts of wind—the circumstances of life that seem to make it impossible to keep moving forward.

I want to learn how to soar like an eagle: to enjoy the presence and power of God as he enables me to soar against the circumstances of life. Would you like to join me? Then let us wait in hope. Let us seek him with expectation. Let’s soar!

Lord, I wait in hope. Help me to find renewed strength in your presence that I might mount up with wings like eagles, run and not grow weary, walk and not faint. May the wind currents I face–the trials of the day–only help me soar. Amen.

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Where to Turn

From Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

September 21

Where to Turn

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 105:37-45 | Isaiah 37:1-38:22 | Galatians 6:1-18 | Proverbs 23:24

Today’s Scripture Focus: Isaiah 37-38

“O Lord Almighty, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. [17] Give ear, O Lord, and hear; open your eyes, O Lord, and see; listen to all the words Sennacherib has sent to insult the living God” (Isaiah 37:16-17 NIV). 

King Hezekiah was confronted by the threat of a huge army with a ruthless reputation. Assyria’s Field Commander (the Rabshakeh) brought a warning in which he mocked God and warned of great devastation. What is a King to do? 

His immediate reaction was to tear his clothes and cover himself with sackcloth. Humbling himself, he sought the Lord in prayer, going into the house of the LORD. He laid out his concerns before the LORD.

God sent word through Isaiah, the Prophet: “Tell your master, ‘This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid of what you have heard–those words with which the underlings of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. [7] Listen! I am going to put a spirit in him so that when he hears a certain report, he will return to his own country, and there I will have him cut down with the sword'” Isaiah 37:6-7 (NIV).

The threats continued. A messenger tried to cast doubt on the Word of the Lord, “Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you by promising that Jerusalem will not be given into the hand of the King of Assyria.”

In this classic confrontation between the Word of the Lord and the words of the accuser, what would Hezekiah do? He took the letter from the messenger and spread it out before the LORD. In prayer, he takes the situation to the LORD and rests in the character and promise of His God. He appeals to God’s glory and prays that God will work in such a way that all the kingdoms will know that “You alone are God.”

We too are often confronted by threatening circumstances, and words of the accuser who would cast doubt on the promise of God.  Don’t listen. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Take the situation to God, spread it out before him and pray expectantly for God to work in a way that will reveal his glory.

Father, when I don’t know what to do, I cry out to you. I lay it all out before you and seek your wisdom. I am trusting you to work all things out in a way that reveals your glory and demonstrates that “You alone are God.” Amen.

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True Freedom

September 20

True Freedom 

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 105:23-36 | Isaiah 33:13-36:22 | Galatians 5:13-26 | Proverbs 23:23

Today’s Scripture Focus: Galatians 5

“You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love” (Galatians 5:13 NIV).

“There are two freedoms: The false where one is free to do what he likes and the true where he is free to do what he ought.” –Charles Kingley—

The path to liberty has two equally dangerous ditches that run along either side: legalism (where one fails to find the freedom or allow others to walk in freedom) and license (where one abuses the freedom). Paul has no time for either.

To the legalist he says: “The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” [15] If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other” (Gal 5:14-15) and “let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other” (Gal 5:26).

To the one given to abusing his freedom: “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love” (Gal 5:13).

Both extremes are called back to the “law of love,” the place where service and obedience flows from love: “serve one another in love.”

As the life of Jesus flows in and through us by the power of the Holy Spirit, the very character of Jesus begins to manifest: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” As we walk in the Spirit, the fruit of life lived according to the flesh (sin) is replaced with the fruit of the Spirit.

Living according to a list in one’s own strength and power won’t produce that. Ignoring the moral law to indulge in sin won’t either, of course. But through the Spirit, we can put to death the misdeeds of the flesh. We don’t have to live gratifying the desires of the flesh. The life of Christ in you promises something better: Freedom to do what is good and right.

The secret: a dynamic Spirit-filled life where we are led by the Spirit, controlled by the Spirit and keep in step with the Spirit. That is true freedom: the freedom to obey; the freedom to serve in love. That requires relationship and it takes away all the boasting and pride.

Whenever we learn to walk, there are trips and falls; it is hard to find our balance. So with walking  in freedom. But don’t be discouraged, God is there to pick you up and set you back on your path.

Open your heart to Jesus. Spend time in fellowship with him today. Find the place of liberty and freedom in your relationship with Him.

Lord Jesus, live your life in me. Help me to live in the fullness of your Spirit that I might demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit. Help me to find the freedom to serve, to love and to obey. Amen.

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Who is Waiting?

September 19

Who is Waiting?

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 105:16-22 | Isaiah 30:12 – 33:12 | Galatians 5:1-12 | Proverbs 23:22

Today’s Scripture Focus: Isaiah 30:12 – 33:12

“Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you…blessed are all who wait for him” (Isaiah 30:18 ESV).

We do a lot of waiting. God does too. There can be many reasons for the waiting, but this passage reminds us that sometimes the reason we are waiting is because God is waiting for us.

“Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you” (30:18). He sometimes waits for us to repent. Sometimes he is teaching us lessons about trust that can be learned no other way. There are lessons in waiting—resting in hope—that can only be learned in the school of waiting (30:15).

Another implication of this text is that God is longing and waiting to bless you, but is waiting for just the right time that he might be most gracious to you. As Wesley Duewel writes: “Waiting on God prepares for greater blessing. God has greater plans than you have realized. Give Him time to do great things. The greater the work He plans, the greater the prayer preparation that may be necessary, including prayer for guidance. God often waits so that He can be even more gracious (Isa. 30:18)” (Wesley Duewel, Let God Guide You Daily, 77).

Waiting brings a greater blessing, as Isaiah reminds us: “Blessed are all those who wait for him” (30:18b). One day the waiting will be over and God will graciously bless us. He is waiting and longing to do that very thing: “The LORD waits (longs) to be gracious to you” (30:18a).

There may be some acts of obedience left undone. There may be some sin yet to be repented of. We may have heard his voice behind us saying “this is the way walk in it” (30:21) and we have been reluctant to follow. In each case there is something we can do, God is waiting on us to take a step.

Sometimes God is waiting on others. The whole nation was in need of “turning back to God’ for these promises to be fulfilled. We can pray for our church family, our nation, and our world. Pray and wait.

But most of the time he is teaching us how to trust Him in the dark—to press ahead in trust when we struggle to understand the path ahead. Don’t be discouraged in the process. Remember that he is gracious and he longs to bless you when the time is right.

Father, walk with me on this path and help me to press ahead even when I don’t know where I am going—even when I’m not able to sense your presence. When I am forced to wait, strengthen me with the faith to persevere. When I am causing you to wait, help me to find courage to take steps of obedience. When I am in a mysterious holding pattern, fill me with wisdom and hope that the day will come when the way will open. I wait in hope. Amen.

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Christ Formed in You

September 18

Christ Formed in You

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 105:8-15  | Isaiah 28:14-30:11 | Galatians 3:23-4:31| Proverbs 23:19-21

Today’s Scripture Focus: Galatians 3:23-4:31

“My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you” (Galatians 3:19 NIV).

The law was given to us as our tutor or guardian to lead us to Christ. In Christ, we find freedom as heirs to the promise by faith. We are adopted as sons and the Spirit of God within us cries out “Abba, Father.” The Christian life is not one of bondage to rules and regulations, but a life of freedom and fullness as we live in freedom as the children of God.

While some might try to steal our joy and place us in bondage, Christ has come to set us free. “What has happened to all your joy?” Paul asks (4:15). Imprisoned in a rigid system without freedom and life, we hang on to the form but deny the power of God. The misplaced focus saps us of our joy. Often we steal the joy of others when we try to get them to play our religious game.

Paul points us to the alternative: Christ being formed in them—Christ living his life out through them.  It’s a life lived by grace through faith. It’s a life of freedom and joy. And it’s all found in a dynamic, ongoing, intimate relationship with Jesus. As we spend time with him, as we pursue spiritual disciplines such as prayer and Bible study, we are formed spiritually. We become more and more like Jesus.

Open your heart to Jesus today, enjoy his presence and allow him the freedom to bring life abundant—life lived to the full. There you will find freedom and joy. There you will be formed more and more into the likeness of Jesus.

Jesus, help me to grow in grace and in the knowledge of you that I might truly be formed into your image. I know it is a process, but help me to press forward, step by step, day by day. Help me to find joy in your presence as I walk with you in the yoke of discipleship. Amen.

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