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This psalm has a special message for several groups of people.   First, Psalm 51 is for those who have never come to grips with the horror of human sin and the magnitude of divine grace. Often grace becomes meaningless, and certainly less than "amazing", because we lose sight of the depths of our depravity. David helps us on both counts by describing in graphic detail the reality of his sin and the breath-taking glory of forgiving grace.   Second, this psal...Read More

Countless Christians feel spiritually paralyzed by the lingering stain of sin. Neither therapy nor religious formulas, not good intentions or good deeds, can erase the vivid memory of their transgression(s) or bring cleansing to the defiling sense of guilt. The oppressive weight of their failure(s) is virtually suffocating.   Thank God for Psalm 51! It is a refreshing and heart-warming reminder of the hope of forgiveness. But it’s even more than that. David ...Read More

Dr On more than one occasion I've been asked: "Sam, why do you lift your hands when you worship?" My answer is two-fold. First, I raise my hands when I pray and praise because I have explicit biblical precedent for doing so. I don't know if I've found all biblical instances of it, but consider this smattering of texts.  "So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands" (Psalm 63:4). "To you, O LORD, I call; my rock, be not deaf to me,...Read More

Dr Some Christians would like us to believe that their faith in God is invulnerable to challenges from without. They act and talk as if their faith has never suffered a crisis of any sort, never been stretched or strained almost to the point of breaking. My opinion of such folk is that they are either pathetically naïve, dangerously dishonest, or perfect. You simply can't live long in this world and not experience crises in spiritual confidence every once in a whi...Read More

"O God, Thou art my God; I shall seek Thee earnestly Some people are terrified of appearing needy. Obsessed with their public image and how they are perceived, they put on a false front of self-sufficiency and self-reliance. Not David! That's one of the things I admire most in the author of so many of these psalms. He is utterly unashamed to acknowledge before others his weakness and dependency on God. Typical is this cry of desperation in Psalm 63:1. "O God, you are ...Read More

avid's confidence is also seen in Psalm 86, where he appeals t My book on prayer, Reaching God's Ear (Tyndale House, 1988), has been out of print for over a decade. When the few who purchased a copy took a look at the cover, they immediately asked me: "Is that you in the picture?" No, but I have to admit, the man sitting in the chair did bear a striking resemblance to what I looked like in 1988. Those of you who've seen the cover also know that there is a young boy sta...Read More

r I was greatly tempted to quietly skip over Psalm 88. But then I realized that there are many reading these meditations who can identify with the palpable sadness of Heman, its author, and wonder if anybody else has ever experienced the depths of despondency it expresses. This has been called the darkest, most depressing, and saddest of all psalms. Unlike the other psalms of lament, this one does not conclude with praise or a declaration of joy or hope for renewed con...Read More

An anonymous psalmist affirms for himself and us all that "he w Not too far from the house in which I was raised in Shawnee, Oklahoma, there was an area called Broadway Woods. It would hardly classify as a forest, but to a nine-year-old boy it seemed as big and vast as the deepest, darkest jungles of Africa. I loved playing in Broadway Woods. My friends and I would build little hideouts and secret meeting places there, using whatever material we could scrounge up. We'd...Read More

r I don't know about you, but I'm weary of the worship wars that have wreaked havoc in so many churches. It's sad to look back over the past twenty-five years or so at the damage and division that have resulted from this internecine conflict. Should we use traditional hymns or contemporary songs? Which do you prefer, a robed choir or praise team? Baldwin piano or acoustical guitar? Liberty or liturgy? Standing or sitting? Formal or free? Long or short? Hands raised or a...Read More

Dr I can't see as well as I used to, especially without my glasses. There are times when I don't hear everything going on around me. And I must admit that I have a finicky sense of taste. But I'm proud to say that I have a marvelous sense of smell. And believe it or not, so too does God! Of course, I'm speaking anthropomorphically when I say that God has a perfect sense of smell. And few things smell as good to him as gratitude. In the book of Leviticus God gave speci...Read More

Dr Were ever more beautiful words penned than these? "He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us" (Ps. 103:10-12). Consider for a moment how we "deal" with others. We keep fresh in our minds their injustices toward us. We nurture the...Read More

Dr One of the greatest obstacles to experiencing intimacy with God is our knowledge of God's knowledge of us. That may sound strange, so I suggest you read it again. Let me explain by asking a question. Why do you hesitate to draw near to God? Why do you and I strive to keep God at arm's length, especially after we've sinned? There are, to be sure, many reasons and thus a variety of ways of answering the question. But let me suggest one that I have found to be most pre...Read More

Meditations on The Seven Letters of Revelation (1) "Does your Church have an Angel?" (Revelation 2:1)...Read More

Dr When was the last time you gave a second thought (much less a first) to a donkey slaking its thirst in a muddy stream? I doubt if you've spent much time pondering the fir trees that provide a home for the stork, or the rocks that serve as a refuge for the badger. Many Christians picture God as distant and uninvolved in the routine, trivial, uneventful affairs of life. This especially holds true when it comes to the phenomena of nature. Surely the God of heaven and e...Read More

Meditations on The Seven Letters of Revelation (2) "Loving Jesus in Ephesus" (Revelation 2:1)...Read More

Dr According to legend, an Austrian bailiff by the name of Gessler issued an order requiring all citizens of Switzerland to bow to a hat that he had set atop a pole in the main square of the town of Altdorf. When William Tell refused, he was arrested. Gessler knew of Tell's expertise with the crossbow and struck a deal with him. If Tell could shoot an apple off the top of his son's head, Gessler would set him free. As you know, Tell's arrow was perfectly on target. Aft...Read More

Meditations on The Seven Letters of Revelation (3) ???Christ in and over his Church?? (Revelation 2:1)...Read More

When was the last time you thanked God for being able When was the last time you thanked God simply for being able? I can't imagine anything more disheartening and depressing than believing in a God who lacks the power to fulfill his purposes, whose energy wanes in the heat of battle or whose strength diminishes in a moment of crisis. Good intentions notwithstanding, if God can't carry out his plans and can't fulfill his goals and can't keep his promises, I'm not sure I...Read More

Dr Psalm 119 has long been an enigma to many Christians, especially those who testify to boredom and confusion when they read God's Word. The attitude of the psalmist is baffling to them. He speaks repeatedly of a joy and unparalleled delight and a spiritual exhilaration when he reads and meditates on Scripture, affections that are largely foreign to their experience. So here's what I propose. Quickly read this meditation and then slowly read the psalm in its entirety....Read More

“The Christian understanding of the Old Testament is determined by the christocentric focus by which the New Testament writers interpreted the Hebrew Scriptures. Therefore it is essential for a Christian to discover the principles and procedures according to which Christ and His apostles understood and expounded the writings of Moses, the Psalms, and the Hebrew prophets. Otherwise he is in grave danger of reading the Old Testament prophecies in an unchristian way a...Read More

"But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared" (Ps If the title to this meditation strikes you as a contradiction in terms, read on. Let me begin by asking a simple question: "What do you fear most?" As for myself, the first things that come to mind, in no particular order, are squash, wasps, and the possibility of no baseball in heaven. Of course, I realize that I can hold my nose when I eat squash and wait for my taste buds to recover. I assume, as well,...Read More

Dr Psalm 139 is all about God, simply and solely. If that doesn't interest you, I doubt that you'll find it of much help in life. That it might not interest you is, of course, tragic. That it ought to interest you goes without saying. But let me say it anyway. Better still, let Charles Spurgeon say it: "There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so de...Read More

Meditations on The Seven Letters of Revelation (4) ???I Know Your Works!?? (Revelation 2:2a)...Read More

Dr Some feel threatened by the sovereignty of God. They regard it as an infringement on their personal autonomy or fear that it will reduce humans to mere automatons, incapable of meaningful and morally significant choices. Others, yours truly included, cannot imagine life apart from the comforting, reassuring, rock-solid confidence that flows from knowing that God governs all things, from the exalted affairs of heaven to the seemingly random rain drops that plummet to...Read More

Meditations on The Seven Letters of Revelation (5) When God Crowns His Own Grace (Rev. 2:2a)...Read More

Dr I had a choice today about what to each for lunch. As I drove west on 135th Street, I was faced with the decision of whether to turn left into the Sonic drive-in or continue straight ahead to Subway for a roast beef sandwich on wheat bread. Nutrition would be better served by the latter, but the allure of a chicken strip dinner with fries and a Diet Coke ultimately prevailed. Did God know which choice I would make prior to the moment that I made it? If I had chosen ...Read More

Just when I think I might have God ever so slightly figured out, he pulls a surprise on me that shatters and confuses and discombobulates what little understanding I have of him.   I’m a theologian by trade, so its my responsibility and calling (and joy) in life to do what I can to connect the dots of divine revelation and hope that the resultant picture at least looks vaguely similar to the God I read about in Scripture. But sadly, that picture all too ofte...Read More

Meditations on The Seven Letters of Revelation (6) The Limits of Love (Revelation 2:2,6)...Read More

We now return to the cave where King David has sought refuge from Saul’s homicidal rage. It’s hard to envision a more bizarre and ironic scene than this, but having dwelt on it in the previous meditation, we now move to the substance of David’s prayer.   “With my voice I cry out to the Lord; with my voice I plead for mercy to the Lord. I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him. When my spirit faints within me, you kno...Read More

  “Prophecy can only depict the future in terms which make sense to its present. It clothes the purpose of God in the hopes and fears of its contemporaries” (Richard Bauckham)   It would appear that Rev. 13:1-18 is temporally parallel with 12:6,13-17 and explains in more detail the precise nature and extent of the Dragon’s (Satan’s) persecution of the people of God. In fact, Rev. 13 describes the earthly governmental, political,...Read More

Meditations on The Seven Letters of Revelation (7) For His Name??s Sake (Revelation 2:3)...Read More

I suppose there are as many different kinds of prayers spoken prior to eating a meal as there are families who pray. When Melanie and Joanna were young, the greatest problem we faced wasn’t in getting them to pray but in getting them to finish before the food got cold. Neither of them was able to pray for the meal collectively, but insisted on giving thanks for each individual item on the table. They thanked God for the potatoes, the fork, the milk, the salt, the n...Read More

A continuation of part one . . .   v. 3   John sees the beast with a wound on one of his heads. The word translated “wound” (plege) is used throughout Revelation (11x) for the “plagues” that God inflicts on an unbelieving world. In other words, the likelihood is that God is the one who strikes this blow in judgment against the beast. In Rev. 13:14 it is said to have been the “wound of the sword,” recalling Isa. 27:1 whic...Read More

I’ve never witnessed the destruction of my city, place of worship, or been driven from my home by pagan hordes and held captive for seventy years. Neither have you. There are no words to describe the physical, emotional and spiritual devastation of such an experience. So I won’t try. But let’s look on the upside. Try to envision how you would feel upon your release from bondage, together with the opportunity to return home and rebuild your city and chur...Read More

Dispensational premillennialism (hereafter DP) contends that the Bible cannot be properly understood apart from recognizing distinct periods or eras or dispensations in which the unfolding purpose of God and his relationship with mankind are revealed. All dispensationalists recognize at least three dispensations: (1) the period before Pentecost (the age of the Mosaic Covenant); (2) the period between Pentecost and the return of Christ (the Church age); and (3) the period...Read More

Typology   A.        Definition of Typology   The following two definitions together express the essence of typology:   “In typology the interpreter finds a correspondence in one or more respects between a person, event, or things in the Old Testament and a person, event, or thing closer to or contemporaneous with a New Testament writer. It is this correspondence that determines the meaning in the Old Testame...Read More

Symbolism In Rev. 1:1 we are told that God “made known” to John the contents of the book through an angel. Whereas the verb semaino often simply means “make known, report, communicate,” its “more concrete and at least equally common sense is ‘show by a sign,’ ‘give (or make) signs (or signals),’ or ‘signify.’ . . . Semaino typically has this idea of symbolic communication when it is not used in the genera...Read More

Psalms 148-150 are too lengthy for me to include in the text of this meditation, and too important for any of us to ignore. So I encourage you to open your Bible and read them now. After you are finished, consider these four themes that emerge.   First, worship is a universal privilege. I could have said “obligation”, for worship is a duty we are commanded to fulfill. But I don’t want to give the impression that it is burdensome or oppressive. Ex...Read More

Seven Foundational Principles These foundational principles are all interrelated and to some degree overlap. 1. The fulfillment of Israel’s prophetic hope as found in the OT documents is found in the person and work of Jesus Christ and the believing remnant, i.e., the Church, which he established at his first coming. The point is that Jesus Christ and his Church are the focal and terminating point of all prophecy. 2. Whereas the OT saw the consummation of God&rs...Read More

Meditations on The Seven Letters of Revelation (8) When Doctrine Isn??t Enough (Revelation 2:4-5)...Read More

Meditations on The Seven Letters of Revelation (9) Feasting on the Tree of Life (Revelation 2:7)...Read More

("Let us consider this settled," said Calvin, "that no one has made progress in the school of Christ who does not joyfully await the day of death and final resurrection" [Institutes, 3.10.5].) Biblical eschatology is a vast field of study encompassing far more than merely "end-time" events, or what we customarily speak of as "prophecy". Also included within the discipline of eschatology is the destiny of the individual, most often conceived as entailing 4 phases or expe...Read More

Meditations on The Seven Letters of Revelation (10) Seeing the ???So That?? in Suffering (Revelation 2:8-9)...Read More

“Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near” (1:3)   It is crucial for every student of the book of Revelation to read and meditate upon this statement in 1:3. Revelation was written in such a way that it should be not only intelligible to any Christian who reads and/or hears its words, but also a blessing to the person who obeys and believes what it says. S...Read More

Suffering comes in many forms and in varying degrees, as the Christians in Smyrna would no doubt testify. But regardless of how it manifests itself, suffering tends to evoke one of two reactions in the soul of the Christian: dependency or disillusionment. One example of the former is found in the apostle Paul’s reaction to a life-threatening incident that brought him to the brink of despair. Rather than yielding to disillusionment with God he was driven to depende...Read More