Follow the Science

Psalm 19

1The heavens tell of the glory of God. The skies display his marvelous craftsmanship.

2Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known.

3They speak without a sound or a word; their voice is silent in the skies;

4yet their message has gone out to all the earth, and their words to all the world. The sun lives in the heavens where God placed it.

5It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom after his wedding. It rejoices like a great athlete eager to run the race.

6The sun rises at one end of the heavens and follows its course to the other end. Nothing can hide from its heat. (Psalm 19:1-6, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

One of the great gifts that 2020 gave us all is the phrase, “Follow the Science”!  (#Sarcasm)

What does it mean exactly to “follow the science”? What is science?

Science is a method of determining how the natural world around us functions based on repeated observations and experimentation. If you make enough observations, you begin to notice patterns. If a pattern is established, you can develop a hypothesis regarding the natural order of the physical universe. Further observations and testing will either substantiate the hypothesis or refute it.

So to “follow the science” really just means that one should follow the evidence or the data to its logical conclusion.

In Psalm 19, David is following the science. David gazes wonderfully on the celestial beauty in the skies. Based on his own repeated observations and the observations of others over thousands of years, David concludes that the heavens are the result of a magnificent creator. David sees the design of the universe and assumes that it must have a designer. Have you ever seen something that looked designed and assumed that it came into existence without a designer?

Philosophers call this argument the teleological argument for God’s existence, which basically says that because the universe is designed, it must have a designer.

Atheists and skeptics have argued over the years that the universe isn’t really designed, but only appears to be designed. Just because one might attribute elements of design to something they see doesn’t mean it is designed. It could just be a naturally occurring phenomenon. But often, these conclusions, ironically, are not following the science, for they immediately dismiss the most logical and obvious explanation for the world and universe which we observe.

If you walk into Best Buy and see a case full of cell phones, what do you conclude? You conclude that those phones were designed and then manufactured by intelligent people who created them for that purpose.

If you walk onto a car lot, what do you assume about the wide array of vehicles you might decide to purchase? You assume that they were designed by intelligent teams of people who created them for the purpose of transporting people and goods.

Everywhere you go, you see things that are designed and built by people…intelligent people.

Now look at our world, its ecosystems and its incredibly diverse array of animals and plants. Beyond our world is the vastness of space with its trillions of stars and galaxies, all of which we can observe.

Whenever we observe something intricate that has purpose, we assume it has a designer because our experience dictates that intricate, complex systems that have functional purposes are designed by intelligent beings, usually humans.

So why would we look at the earth and the universe and conclude something different?

If we’re following the science, as David did, our conclusion should be the same as his conclusion – that “the heavens declare the glory of God” and “the skies declare his marvelous craftsmanship.”

Reflection

What has been your understanding of the phrase “follow the science?” What do you think it means to “follow the science?”

What has been your experience with scientific observation? What are some science classes you’ve taken and what kinds of things did you observe?

Do you think it’s possible to prove God’s existence “scientifically?” How would you go about it?

What is your understanding of the teleological argument for God’s existence? How would you explain it someone else?

 

Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

 

 

The Endless Virtues of God’s Word

Psalm 119

1Happy are people of integrity, who follow the law of the LORD.

2Happy are those who obey his decrees and search for him with all their hearts.

3They do not compromise with evil, and they walk only in his paths.

4You have charged us to keep your commandments carefully.

5Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect your principles!

6Then I will not be disgraced when I compare my life with your commands.

7When I learn your righteous laws, I will thank you by living as I should!

8I will obey your principles. Please don’t give up on me!

9How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your word and following its rules.

10I have tried my best to find you—don’t let me wander from your commands.

11I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

12Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your principles.

13I have recited aloud all the laws you have given us.

14I have rejoiced in your decrees as much as in riches.

15I will study your commandments and reflect on your ways.

16I will delight in your principles and not forget your word.

17Be good to your servant, that I may live and obey your word.

18Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your law.

19I am but a foreigner here on earth; I need the guidance of your commands. Don’t hide them from me!

20I am overwhelmed continually with a desire for your laws.
(Psalm 119:1-20, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

Psalm 119 has the distinction of not only being the longest of the 150 Psalms, but at 176 verses, it’s also the longest chapter in the entire Bible.

Though it’s not apparent in the English version, this psalm is actually an acrostic poem consisting of 22 stanzas, each of which begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

Each stanza is 8 verses and the unifying theme throughout this psalm is the love for and the importance of God’s laws in our lives.

Though I’ve only included the first 20 verses in this post, just about every one of the 176 verses has a direct reference to God’s word, using terms like “commandments”, “decrees”, “principles”, “rules”, and “righteous word”.

Throughout the poem, the psalmist highlights the importance and the benefits of following God’s laws, including:

    • enabling us to live as we should (verse 7)
    • instructing us on how to remain pure (verse 9)
    • empowering us to avoid sin (verse 11)
    • daily guidance (verse 19)
    • source of wisdom and advice (verse 24)
    • revives us when we’re discouraged (verse 25)
    • encourages us in our grief (verse 28)
    • tempers greed and love for money (verse 36)
    • helps us know God as He is (verse 55)
    • source of comfort, peace, hope (multiple verses)

Of course, this list is not complete as the psalm repeatedly extols the virtues of God’s commands and our need to know them and follow them. The author’s view and love for God’s word can be summarized by verse 72, which says:

“Your law is more valuable to me than millions in gold and silver!”

This psalm highlights one of the most important truths of the Christian faith, which is that God’s word is central to those who want to know Him and follow Him. Not only is it the primary source of our knowledge about God, but it’s also the main avenue for understanding our fallen nature and the means for experiencing reconciliation with God and with others.

Reflection

How well do you know God’s word?

What has been your habit in terms of connecting with God regularly through His word?

If you wrote your own psalm extolling the virtues of God’s word in your own life, what would you say? What adjectives would you use to reflect your view of God’s word and its importance in your life? How long would your psalm be?

What steps can you take to develop your understanding of God’s commands and your knowledge of His word?

What obstacles or barriers keep you from regularly and consistently reading and studying God’s word?

 

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

A Psalm With a Timely Warning!

Psalm 95

1Come, let us sing to the LORD! Let us give a joyous shout to the rock of our salvation!

2Let us come before him with thanksgiving. Let us sing him psalms of praise.

3For the LORD is a great God, the great King above all gods.

4He owns the depths of the earth, and even the mightiest mountains are his.

5The sea belongs to him, for he made it. His hands formed the dry land, too.

6Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the LORD our maker,

7for he is our God. We are the people he watches over, the sheep under his care. Oh, that you would listen to his voice today!

8The LORD says, “Don’t harden your hearts as Israel did at Meribah, as they did at Massah in the wilderness.

9For there your ancestors tried my patience; they courted my wrath though they had seen my many miracles.

10For forty years I was angry with them, and I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts turn away from me. They refuse to do what I tell them.’

11So in my anger I made a vow: ‘They will never enter my place of rest.’”
(Psalm 95:1-11, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

If you read through the Psalms regularly, you no doubt have certain psalms that become your favorites. Psalm 95 is one of my favorites because it praises God for who He is and what He’s done.

Here is a simple list of items to recognize about God from this psalm:

    • He is the ROCK of our salvation
    • He is a GREAT God
    • He is the KING above all gods
    • He owns the depths of the earth
    • He owns the mightiest mountains
    • The sea belongs to Him because He created it
    • He also created the land
    • The Lord made US as well
    • The Lord is OUR God
    • He watches over us, His sheep

Though there are plenty of reasons to praise God, this psalm also comes with a command and a caution.

The command is to “listen to His voice today!”

The caution is that we not harden our hearts as the Israelites did at Meribah.

The reference here is to a situation that occurred in Exodus 17. The Israelites had been miraculously delivered from the Egyptians but found themselves wandering in the desert and doubting God’s motives and ability to provide. In the previous chapter they had complained about having a lack of food so God miraculously provided quail and manna for them to eat.

In Exodus 17, they found themselves thirsty with no visible source of water. Again, they complained to Moses and to God despite all of the miracles God had already performed to demonstrate His ability and desire to provide for His people.

In this psalm, the Lord gives the caution that we should heed as well. Despite the Lord’s miracles that we’ve seen in our own lives, we are all susceptible to a hardening of our hearts. This hardening will often come in times of distress or struggle, when things are not going the way we want. In those times, it’s easy to question whether God is there or whether He cares!

These words are especially timely, given all that’s happened this last year. It’s a reminder that God is still great. He’s still the king of all gods. He’s still the rock of our salvation. And He’s still the creator of all that we see, including US!

Therefore, God deserves our praise, even if our own personal circumstances aren’t what we would hope or desire.

Reflection

What are some times in your life where you’ve been tempted to harden your heart and question God or even doubt His existence? What were the circumstances?

What are some practical things you can do to avoid a hardening of your heart?

Besides the list from this psalm, what are some of God’s other attributes and actions that make Him worthy of our praise?

God’s command in this passage is to “listen to His voice today!” What are some ways you are able to listen to God’s voice? How do you typically hear the Lord’s voice?

 

Photo by Jeremy Perkins on Unsplash

 

A Prophetic Psalm

Psalm 22

1My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me? Why do you remain so distant?Why do you ignore my cries for help?

2Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer. Every night you hear my voice, but I find no relief.

3Yet you are holy. The praises of Israel surround your throne.

4Our ancestors trusted in you, and you rescued them.

5You heard their cries for help and saved them. They put their trust in you and were never disappointed.

6But I am a worm and not a man. I am scorned and despised by all!

7Everyone who sees me mocks me. They sneer and shake their heads, saying,

8“Is this the one who relies on the LORD? Then let the LORD save him!If the LORD loves him so much, let the LORD rescue him!”

9Yet you brought me safely from my mother’s womb and led me to trust you when I was a nursing infant.

10I was thrust upon you at my birth. You have been my God from the moment I was born.

11Do not stay so far from me, for trouble is near, and no one else can help me.

12My enemies surround me like a herd of bulls; fierce bulls of Bashan have hemmed me in!

13Like roaring lions attacking their prey, they come at me with open mouths.

14My life is poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint.My heart is like wax, melting within me.

15My strength has dried up like sunbaked clay. My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. You have laid me in the dust and left me for dead.

16My enemies surround me like a pack of dogs; an evil gang closes in on me. They have pierced my hands and feet.

17I can count every bone in my body. My enemies stare at me and gloat.

18They divide my clothes among themselves and throw dice for my garments. (Psalm 22:1-18, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

Usually when I read the psalms, I think of poetic arrangements that communicate lament or praise from the author. I often try to put myself in the shoes of the author and imagine similar circumstances I may have experienced. I seek to lament with the psalmist when he laments and rejoice and praise God with the psalmist when he praises God.

On the surface, Psalm 22 may look like a typical psalm of lament or anguish but upon deeper reflection, it turns out to be so much more. I don’t usually think of the Psalms as prophetic, but Psalm 22 provides a number of verses in which David’s experience ultimately foreshadows the experience of the Messiah.

In verse 1, for example, David utters the very words that are expressed by Jesus on the cross in Matthew 27:46, when he cried out, “My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?”

In verse 7, David’s words accurately describe events that occurred in Matthew 27:39-43, when soldiers mocked Jesus after his arrest and onlookers jeered at Him during His crucifixion.

In verses 14-16, David accurately describes details of a crucifixion, such as extreme thirst, asphyxiation and the trauma to the hands and feet. These verses are all the more amazing because crucifixion as a means of execution was not known until Roman times.

Finally, in verse 18, David’s description of clothes being divided and dispersed by the casting of lots is fulfilled in Matthew 27:35.

All of these events were fulfilled by people who would have had no knowledge of the prophecies concerning Jesus. Yet their actions were accurately described over 1000 years earlier by the very man through whose lineage the Messiah would emerge.

David is not fearful of sharing all his emotions when he pens his words. He is honest with God when he’s sad, lonely and angry. Yet he praises God in spite of his circumstances and in the case of this psalm, his words foreshadow the emergence of the Messiah, the one who ultimately experiences everything David is feeling as he writes those words, yet emerges victorious as the Savior and eternal King!

Reflection

What has been your experience in reading and reflecting on the Psalms? How have they helped you to connect to God on a deeper level?

What is your response to the verses in this Psalm that are Messianic in nature, as they predict events that the promised Messiah would endure?

How do these verses strengthen your faith in the Holy Scriptures as an accurate revelation from God?

 

Photo by Yannick Pulver on Unsplash

 

 

A Contradictory Psalm

The Daily Daveotional

Psalm 13

For the choir director: A psalm of David.

1O LORD, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way?

2How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand?

3Turn and answer me, O LORD my God! Restore the light to my eyes, or I will die.

4Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!” Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.

5But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me.

6I will sing to the LORD because he has been so good to me.

(Psalm 13, NLT)


In this Psalm, David cries out to the Lord as his soul is in deep anguish. He feels defeated by his enemies and he feels abandoned by God.

But by the end of the Psalm, David says that he trusts in God’s unfailing love, rejoices that God has rescued him and sings to the Lord because God has been so good to him.

On the surface, this Psalm seems like a contradiction in perspective. One moment, David is complaining that the Lord has abandoned him and in the next moment, he’s praising God for rescuing him and being so good to him.

Which is it?  It’s as if David is shifting back and forth between alternate universes in real time. Is he hallucinating? Is he disconnected from reality? Or is there some other explanation?

The truth is that David IS in anguish. He DOES feel abandoned. He DOES feel like his enemies are overtaking him.

These are real emotions David is experiencing and they are are all true.

But what is also true is God’s sovereignty, love and goodness. David recognizes these things too and is able to acknowledge their reality.

This is what Henry Cloud, in his book “Changes That Heal”, calls sorting the good and bad. People who do this well recognize that there is both good and bad in our world. They are able to deal with the reality that both exist in a way that doesn’t allow negative outcomes to become the consuming focus of their reality.

People who don’t do this well tend to go all bad if one little thing goes wrong.

What do I mean by going “all bad”?

Going all bad occurs when we allow a negative experience or circumstance to so consume us that we begin to project our negative emotion on all aspects of our reality. Our attitude and judgment is clouded in such a way that we can only see and focus on things that are negative while being purposely blind to any good elements in our reality.

David doesn’t do this. He recognizes the bad circumstances he’s in and he’s honest about his emotions. But David also acknowledges the good that still exists, namely, the reality that God is good and loving.

Reflection

What keeps you from being completely honest with God about your emotions? 

When have you gone all bad as a result of an undesired circumstance? What was the situation you were in and how did your emotions affect your perception of reality?

What do you think are some practical ways you can develop in your ability to sort the good and bad?

What are 10 things you can think of right now that are positive about your current life situation?

 

Photo of “Changes That Heal” from Amazon website – by Dave Lowe

Don’t Put Confidence in Powerful People!

Psalm 146

1Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, I tell myself.

2I will praise the LORD as long as I live. I will sing praises to my God even with my dying breath.

3Don’t put your confidence in powerful people; there is no help for you there.

4When their breathing stops, they return to the earth, and in a moment all their plans come to an end.

5But happy are those who have the God of Israel as their helper, whose hope is in the LORD their God.

6He is the one who made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. He is the one who keeps every promise forever,

7who gives justice to the oppressed and food to the hungry. The LORD frees the prisoners.

8The LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts the burdens of those bent beneath their loads.The LORD loves the righteous.

9The LORD protects the foreigners among us. He cares for the orphans and widows, but he frustrates the plans of the wicked.

10The LORD will reign forever. O Jerusalem, your God is King in every generation! Praise the LORD! (Psalm 146:1-10, NLT)


We live in perhaps one of the most polarized times in the history of our country. Wherever you may align yourself on the political spectrum, it’s easy to think that all of the problems in our country could be solved if everyone agreed with our views and our solutions.

By extension, we can be fooled into thinking that if people who align with our political persuasions can come to power, things would be much better off.

The truth is, as the psalmist says in verse 3, the people who are in positions of authority really have no power to effect lasting change. Why? They are mortal. Being mortal doesn’t just mean that they are subject to death but it also means they are susceptible to all of the vices that mortals are susceptible to – greed, power, corruption, and pursuing their own self-interests.

This is not to say that people cannot effect change or that we shouldn’t give careful thought to who we vote for public office. There is no doubt that the right people can make a huge difference in our communities.

But we shouldn’t put our confidence in them because ultimately, they cannot help. Only the Lord can. Only the Lord ALWAYS keeps his promises. He is righteous and just and he is concerned for the orphan, the widow, the poor and oppressed.

In addition, only the Lord can meet our deepest spiritual needs. And because He is the eternal King, we can ALWAYS depend on him. Political parties are always changing, which means that the perspectives, approaches and solutions to the issues of the day are constantly shifting as well. But God is eternal. He never changes and He doesn’t change His opinion or His approach.

Thus, the psalmist can say, “He is King in every generation!”

Amen!

Reflection

In what ways can you tend to trust in politicians and people of power to effect change?

While still being politically active and responsible, how can you ensure that your ultimate trust is in the Lord and not people?

 

Photo by Cameron Smith on Unsplash

 

A Covid Cave Prayer!

Psalm 142

A psalm of David, regarding his experience in the cave. A prayer.

1I cry out to the LORD; I plead for the LORD’s mercy.

2I pour out my complaints before him and tell him all my troubles.

3For I am overwhelmed, and you alone know the way I should turn. Wherever I go, my enemies have set traps for me.

4I look for someone to come and help me, but no one gives me a passing thought! No one will help me; no one cares a bit what happens to me.

5Then I pray to you, O LORD. I say, “You are my place of refuge. You are all I really want in life.

6Hear my cry, for I am very low. Rescue me from my persecutors, for they are too strong for me.

7Bring me out of prison so I can thank you. The godly will crowd around me, for you treat me kindly.” (Psalm 142, NLT)

 

Like many people in our country, my wife and I have been locked down at home during this pandemic. We’re working from home, we don’t go out much and besides virtual meetings, we’re pretty much disconnected physically from others.

Our home has been what I call our “Covid Cave.”

Psalm 142 is a psalm of David when he was on the run and in hiding from Saul, who wanted to kill him. This psalm was of particular interest to me because he’s writing about his experience hiding out in a cave.

It’s not likely that the circumstances of your experience mirror David’s. Most of us don’t have enemies chasing us and wanting to kill us. And even though I’ve jokingly referred to my home as a “cave”, I at least have a working toilet, running water and internet streaming services, none of which David enjoyed in his situation.

Still, the circumstances surrounding this pandemic have been mentally traumatizing for many, and the resultant emotions may be similar to David’s. Just look at how David describes his situation:

He felt overwhelmed (Verse 3).

He felt trapped (Verse 3).

He felt disconnected and isolated from others (Verse 4).

He felt helpless…like nobody cared about him (Verse 4).

He felt like his life situation was too strong for him (Verse 6).

He felt imprisoned (Verse 7).

Can you resonate with these emotions? If so, you’re not alone.

How did David deal with these emotions?

First of all, David recognized his utter dependence and need for the Lord. He cried out to the Lord. He pleaded with Him for mercy. He poured out his complaints and told Him his troubles.

Secondly, David recognized that the Lord is the only one to whom he could truly turn. He recognized that the Lord alone is his refuge and the only person that he really wants or needs in life.

Who knows how much longer we will be in this situation. Hopefully, things will turn around soon. Until things change though, and life returns to some sense of normalcy, I echo David’s prayer to the Lord that He would bring me out of prison so I can thank Him!

Reflection

What personal struggles have you experienced during this pandemic?

What emotions have these struggles produced in you?

How can David’s “Cave Prayer” help you during your “Covid Cave” experience?

 

Photo by Ksenia Kudelkina on Unsplash

Are You an Idol Worshiper?

For my daily devotional reading, I’ve been following the Grant Horner Bible reading plan. I’m in my third year of following this plan, which invites the reader to read one chapter a day from each of 10 different segments of the Bible (Gospels, Old Testament Pentateuch, New Testament Letters #1, New Testament Letters #2, Wisdom Literature, Psalms, Proverbs, Old Testament History, Old Testament Prophets and finally, the book of Acts) for a total of 10 chapters each day.

One of the unique elements to this plan is that you begin to see how the scriptures are related to each other as you see certain themes and topics show up in completely different segments of your Bible reading. This was again the case for me a few days ago when I read the following similar verses from completely different chapters and segments of the Bible:

The idols of the nations are silver and gold, made by the hands of men. 16They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but they cannot see; 17they have ears, but cannot hear, nor is there breath in their mouths. 18Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them. (Psalms 135:15-18)

They told Aaron, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who led us out of Egypt—we don’t know what has happened to him!’** 41That was the time they made an idol in the form of a calf. They brought sacrifices to it and held a celebration in honor of what their hands had made.  (Acts 7:40-41)

Idols have always been an issue with people. We see the theme of idols repeatedly throughout Scripture. In the Psalms passage (and many other locations in Scripture) the author writes about the sheer irony of a person fashioning a figurine out of metal or wood or some other material – giving it eyes and ears and a mouth, even though it cannot see, hear or speak, and then bowing to that figurine as if it had some power to grant to us whatever we might request. It’s utter foolishness. To do this, the Psalmist says, will make you just as senseless as the idols you’ve created.

In the Acts passage, Stephen, who is about to be stoned, is giving a short history of the nation of Israel when he recounts this incident that occurred while Moses was on Mt. Sinai communing with God and receiving the 10 commandments. The people weren’t sure what happened to Moses or why it was taking him so long to come down from the mountain so they asked Aaron to fashion a gold calf which they subsequently began to worship as their God.

It’s easy to read passages like these and wonder how the Israelites could be so dumb to think that something they have just created with their own hands is somehow a god that will do your bidding! How can something you have created have the power to give you whatever you want and do whatever you ask?

People today are still in the habit of creating idols. We may not fashion figurines that we place on the mantel and worship, as we see in the Scriptures, but we create an idol any time our image of God suits our preferences instead of reality.

Think about it this way – in the Bible, we see people fashioning idols to represent gods the way they see them, whether they are in the form of an animal (calf) or people (eyes, ears, mouth). Even if we don’t create a physical representation of God via some figurine, we are still creating an idol any time we create a mental image of God that doesn’t comply with how God is revealed to us in the Bible.

In today’s world, it’s easier than ever to appeal to a “god” that bends to my political views and my cultural preferences.

Because God is infinite, there is always going to be a sense in which our views of Him are not completely accurate. So how can we avoid worshiping an idol? The key is our heart. God doesn’t expect that we would know everything about Him perfectly but He does exhort us to seek him with our whole heart and to worship Him as He’s been revealed.

This is another reason why it’s so important to read and understand God’s Word, for it’s the primary source for truthful information about who God is and what He’s like.

Reflection:

What are some ways you may be tempted to bend your understanding of God and His nature to fit your own views or preferences?

What is the source of information you have about God?

What steps can you take to increase your understanding of who God is so you are worshiping Him in spirit and truth?

 

To learn more about the Grant Horner daily Bible reading plan, you can google it, or go to this blog post, which I found to have a very thorough description.