The Same Boat

Day 211

Prayer for the day

O LORD, I cry to you for help; in the morning my prayer comes before you.

Scripture for the day

Psalm 54-56, Romans 3

We’re all in it. The same boat. Paul says it. David says it. The bible says it. Our experience says it. ALL of us have done things we’re not proud of. All of us have NOT done things we should have done. And each one of us knows the sting of remorse when we’ve sinned against almighty God.

David, though he appeals to God as his salvation, recognizes that even though God has saved him and is saving him, he is one of the wicked. He regularly calls on God to put a stop to those who are tormenting him. Yet he also, constantly, bemoans his own fallenness, sinfulness, and his self-recrimination is constant and real. He recognizes in these Psalms that he’s broken, that all of us are broken, but that the love of God is able to overcome even the worst sinfulness and brokenness.

Paul’s letter comes to the Jews and Gentiles in Rome, telling them that their observance of the law, while important, is not the thing that will ultimately save them. It is the grace of God, and that MAY be worked out through obedience to the law, that will allow them to be saved by God. This obedience, says Paul, comes through the knowledge of the law, but ultimately, it comes through the righteousness of God which is able to save those whom God calls to himself.

All kinds of people, all people, have fallen short of the grace of God, says Paul. But in the next breath, he says that all kinds of people also find purity and redemption through the work of Jesus Christ.

It is not enough simply to say that all have sinned. This, while true, is less than half the story. Truly, all have sinned. And truly, God’s grace is big enough to save those who sin!

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and more evil

Day 210

Prayer for the day

Bless God in the congregation; bless the LORD, you that are of the fountain of Israel.

Scripture for the day

Psalm 51-53, Romans 2

Psalm 51 is one of the most heart-wrenching pieces of literature contained in the scriptures. In it, David confesses the sin he has been confronted with by the prophet Nathan. David has seduced a married woman, had her husband murdered, and impregnated her. He has directly contravened the law of God, and he knows it. He is directly and entirely in the wrong, and he does not hide this fact from God, or even try to defend himself from the accusations he faces. He owns up to God that he has done these things.

And once David has owned up to his sin, he pleads with God for forgiveness. He asks that not only would God forgive him, but that God would entirely blot out his sin and his guilt. He is asking something enormously difficult for humans, but he asks nonetheless, knowing that the forgiving God is able to do anything.

Paul, in his letter to the Romans, continues to indict humanity for its proclivity toward sin, but instead of a doom-and-gloom message, Paul offers hope for his audience. Instead of HAVING to be slaves to sin, there is salvation offered. The Law of God leads to the life of God, and Paul discusses the importance of the law for the believer as he talks about the cure for sinfulness.

More important than the written law, says Paul, is the law that God has written on the hearts of the people he has created. This law convicts, instructs, and directs. As it does so, we are able to follow God’s design for us and so show ourselves to be his children (Paul will eventually move this argument in the direction of the salvation God offers in Christ).

May we obey the law written on our hearts and show ourselves children of the king.

Wickedness

Day 209

Prayer for the day

I will thank you, O LORD my God, with all my heart, and glorify your Name for evermore.

Scripture for the day

Psalm 49-50, Romans 1

Sin.

Sin is not a popular concept these days. People don’t like to talk about it and they DON’T like to hear about it. We don’t like to think that we’re not righteous. We don’t like to think that we’ve offended God. We hate the idea that we’re terrible. We like to think that we’re good deep down, that buried beneath the sinful veneer, we’re good people.

Paul, in his letter to the Romans, knocks our self-esteem right off its pedestal. Paul’s claim is that all of us, ALL of us, have nothing to commend ourselves. We are in desperate and dire straits.

We have all struggled with sin. We have all failed. And in that failure, we have failed to recognize the greatness of God and what he has done for us. We have so offended God, so neglected our care for him and our love for him, our duty and responsibility to holiness, that God allowed us to be consumed by those things. Sin is a disease, and a disease that kills.

David knew the evil of sin and wickedness as well. The Psalmist wrote many songs about the fate of the wicked. He wrote about their schemes, their tactics, and ultimately, he wrote about how God felt about the wickedness that was, and is, rampant in our lives.

We are playing a serious and a deadly game when we flirt with the evil we are drawn to. God threatens serious consequences for sin in the Psalms, consequences like being destroyed. In the First Testament, we see the threat, and in the Second, we see the fulfillment. People are given over to the sin they love, to their downfall.

May God be gracious in aiding us in the avoidance of sin and the pursuit of holiness.

Sing

Day 208

Prayer for the day

LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer; hearken, O God of Jacob.

Scripture for the day

Psalm 46-48, ACts 28

Most Christians aren’t known for their excessive celebratory attitudes. We’re more likely known as gloomy, rule-ridden, and depressing. God is referred to as the cosmic buzz-kill, the one who doesn’t want us to have any fun, or to enjoy ourselves.

Yet a quick look at the Psalms seems to indicate that this is not the case. Rather than being dour or depressing all the time, the Psalmist exhorts those who love the Lord to burst into song at the amazing love and grace he pours out on his people. The Psalmist recounts the marvels God has done, the wonder of his care and protection, the incredible graciousness of his character, and his steadfast and faithful love for us.

Our response, according to the Psalmist, ought to be less morbid and more joyous. We ought to be the people known for bursting into a song because of the joy in our hearts. Or id you don’t sing, at least break into a bit of a jig.

Paul didn’t seem to break into song all the time (unless you count a few times in prison) but as you read the letters that Paul writes along with his story in Acts, you get the sense that this is not a doom-and-gloom kind of fellow. Paul, even though he is in prison in Rome, continues to spread the joy of Christ as he witnesses to the goodness of God to everyone around him.

Paul is no respecter of persons when it comes to joy: he spreads it equally. There are people who have said Paul must have been boring or grumpy because of some of the content of his letters, but when I read about him challenging the religious leaders and telling the Jesus story to anyone who will listen, I see a man filled with the joy of Christ.

May we be known for the same joy.

Put Your Hope in God

Day 207

Prayer for the day

Our God is in heaven; whatever he wills to do, he does.

Scripture for the day

Psalm 43-45, Acts 27:27-44

David had need of God. All of the time. He was constantly in turmoil, sometimes because of his own sin, but often because he was oppressed by many enemies, as we have explored before. The extraordinary thing about David and the rest of the Psalmists is that they don’t run to and fro looking for help from anyone.

David and the Psalmists maintain hope in God. Hope is an incredible thing. It keeps us going. It’s not necessarily an unreasoning optimism. Rather, their hope in God is based on the character of God. Their hope is based on the faithfulness of God, his care for their well-being, and his promise that he would be their God and they would be his people.

Hope is something that remains when everything else goes away. Hope is something that is based on something stronger than a good feeling or hunch. The hope of the biblical writers was a hope based on the word of God and his character.

Paul knew something about hope. In the middle of his shipwreck, Paul faced several situations that most of us would call “hopeless.” The sailors and soldiers he’s travelling with are constantly threatening the lives of the passengers, hoping to kill them before all of their prisoners escape and they are blamed for the catastrophe.

The soldiers were hopeless. They were in danger for their lives in several ways. They were supposed to be responsible for the prisoners and for the journey and both were about to go badly wrong. Instead, Paul steps in and tells them what they need to do. Paul gives the men hope, and that hope is based on the words and character of God. God will save, and the people who the soldiers cover will be faithful to their words as well.

Hope is a wonderful thing. May you hope in the character and faithfulness of the God who does not fail.

He Lifted Me

Day 206

Prayer for the day

What terror you inspire! who can stand before you when you are angry?

Scripture for the day

Psalm 40-42, Acts 27:1-26

There are times when it’s easy to rationalize the fact that it seems God doesn’t respond as quickly or as dramatically as God used to. It’s easy to say that he saves our souls and doesn’t worry so much about our bodies, that the salvation we read about in the Psalms and in other parts of the scripture is simply spiritual salvation. But if we limit God’s saving acts and abilities simply to the spiritual realm, we neglect the rich heritage of true bodily salvation that is referred to in the scriptures.

Whether or not the Psalmist is claiming actual bodily salvation in Psalm 40 is debatable, but the fact that God bodily saved David (and we assume some of the other Psalmists) is not in dispute. David was regularly rescued by God from situations that were, at the least, hazardous to his health! He was constantly pursued in his early years, and yet God was faithful to rescue him physically.

Paul experiences the same kind of salvation from God in the form of rescue from a storm and shipwreck. It’s got to be one of the scariest things, to be shipwrecked in a storm. Given the Hebrew dislike of water all through the scriptures, it’s amazing how many shipwrecks are present in scripture. Yet in the significant distress in which the sailors find themselves, Paul speaks words of comfort, words that rest on the promise of God that they will be alright if they stay true.

Paul’s surety that everything will be ok is based on the word of God who said everything would be ok, and in the end it is. God saves Paul and the rest from certain death in order to accomplish his purposes.

There is no guarantee that we will all experience physical salvation in every moment, but it’s nice to know that the God of the universe did, and does, save people physically as well as spiritually!

Commit Your Ways

Day 205

Prayer for the day

My mouth shall recount your mighty acts and saving deeds all day long; though I cannot know the number of them.

Scripture for the day

Psalm 37-39, Acts 26

If life on planet Earth has taught us anything, it’s that no one, no matter how great we think they are, is really good. The scriptures tell us that no one is righteous. No one is morally upright, upstanding or truly and fully and wholly godly.

How then are we supposed to follow the Psalmist’s injunction to commit our ways to God? We know that committing our ways to God is virtually impossible. Our commitment to God constantly wavers. We can’t keep up with our devotion, we can’t avoid our sin, we constantly seek evil even when we know the good. We, in so many ways, are hopeless. Even when we think we’re doing right, we do wrong.

Paul learned the hard way about wanting to do right but doing wrong instead. He persecuted the very Lord he claimed to serve through his ignorance of the Way and his persecution thereof. He claimed to love his God, but he was persecuting that God and the ones who followed him.

David knew what it meant to lie. All of those who wrote Psalms knew what it meant to not be good. Everyone who wrote scripture, everyone who lived during that time, and everyone now knew (and knows) what it means to be a sinner. We know what it means to fall short.

Yet David’s recommendation stands. David and the Psalmists as well as Paul knew that regardless of our sin, it is still our responsibility to commit our ways to God. There is no guarantee we will be “safe” but the God we follow will protect our ways as we seek to commit ourselves to Him.

Commitment. Our desire to know God needs to be matched by our desire to be known by God and to give ourselves fully to His work.