Our Soul Waits for the Lord

Psalm 3320 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Psalm 33:1–22 (ESV)

1 Shout for joy in the LORD, O you righteous!
Praise befits the upright.
2 Give thanks to the LORD with the lyre;
make melody to him with the harp of ten strings!
3 Sing to him a new song;
play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.

4 For the word of the LORD is upright,
and all his work is done in faithfulness.
5 He loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD.

6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,
and by the breath of his mouth all their host.
7 He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap;
he puts the deeps in storehouses.

8 Let all the earth fear the LORD;
let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!
9 For he spoke, and it came to be;
he commanded, and it stood firm.

10 The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
he frustrates the plans of the peoples.
11 The counsel of the LORD stands forever,
the plans of his heart to all generations.
12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!

13 The LORD looks down from heaven;
he sees all the children of man;
14 from where he sits enthroned he looks out
on all the inhabitants of the earth,
15 he who fashions the hearts of them all
and observes all their deeds.
16 The king is not saved by his great army;
a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
17 The war horse is a false hope for salvation,
and by its great might it cannot rescue.

18 Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in his steadfast love,
19 that he may deliver their soul from death
and keep them alive in famine.

20 Our soul waits for the LORD;
he is our help and our shield.
21 For our heart is glad in him,
because we trust in his holy name.
22 Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us,
even as we hope in you.

Understanding and Applying the Word

The psalmist calls us to shout for joy to the LORD, to praise him, and give thanks. Why? Because God’s word is trustworthy. God has given his word to his people and we can know that he is faithful to fulfill that word. It is the same word that spoke the world into existence and it is from the same God who rules over all things. Therefore, we wait for the LORD, who is our hope and shield and we trust in his name. He is our hope.

If you have ever asked “Why is this happening to me?” or wondered if God as forgotten you, this psalm is for you. It is a reminder to us all that God’s word is secure and that we can count on it. The promises that God has made in Scripture to his people will be fulfilled. So we can be encouraged that God has not forgotten us. He is the God of steadfast love and will deliver his people.

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Recounting God’s Wonderful Deeds

Psalm 91 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Psalm 9:1–20 (ESV)

1 I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.
2 I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

3 When my enemies turn back, they stumble and perish before your presence.
4 For you have maintained my just cause; you have sat on the throne, giving righteous judgment.

5 You have rebuked the nations; you have made the wicked perish; you have blotted out their name forever and ever.
6 The enemy came to an end in everlasting ruins; their cities you rooted out; the very memory of them has perished.

7 But the LORD sits enthroned forever; he has established his throne for justice,
8 and he judges the world with righteousness; he judges the peoples with uprightness.

9 The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.
10 And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.

11 Sing praises to the LORD, who sits enthroned in Zion! Tell among the peoples his deeds!
12 For he who avenges blood is mindful of them; he does not forget the cry of the afflicted.

13 Be gracious to me, O LORD! See my affliction from those who hate me, O you who lift me up from the gates of death,
14 that I may recount all your praises, that in the gates of the daughter of Zion I may rejoice in your salvation.

15 The nations have sunk in the pit that they made; in the net that they hid, their own foot has been caught.
16 The LORD has made himself known; he has executed judgment; the wicked are snared in the work of their own hands. Higgaion. Selah

17 The wicked shall return to Sheol, all the nations that forget God.

18 For the needy shall not always be forgotten, and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever.

19 Arise, O LORD! Let not man prevail; let the nations be judged before you!
20 Put them in fear, O LORD! Let the nations know that they are but men! Selah

Understanding and Applying the Word

This psalm is a praise of God’s deliverance of Israel from their enemies. The writer states in the opening that he will “give thanks to the LORD” with his “whole heart” and “recount all of your wonderful deeds.”

Praise is always a response to something. When we praise God, it is because of who he is or what he has done, either in the past, the present, or promised future. We should especially focus our praise on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the focal point of all of Scripture. Yet, we often fail to remember the things God has done for us, so we fail to praise him as we ought. We fail to see the little things that transpire each and every day or we fail to see God’s hand at work in those little things. Take time today to think about how God has shown his goodness to you. He has done so in Christ and he has done so in so many smaller ways. Take time to praise his with thanksgiving.

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Turning Mourning into Dancing

Psalm 3011 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Psalm 30:1–12 (ESV)

1 I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me.
2 O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.
3 O LORD, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.

4 Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name.
5 For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.

6 As for me, I said in my prosperity, “I shall never be moved.”
7 By your favor, O LORD, you made my mountain stand strong; you hid your face; I was dismayed.

8 To you, O LORD, I cry, and to the Lord I plead for mercy:
9 “What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness?
10 Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me! O LORD, be my helper!”

11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,
12 that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

Understanding and Applying the Word

We have spent all of 2019 reading through the life of Jesus Christ from his entrance into the world to his ascension into heaven. We have even looked at the first days of his followers after Jesus left them to carry on the mission of proclaiming the gospel to the world. At this point, we are shifting gears and will spend the next couple of weeks focusing on the theme of thanksgiving, or thankfulness. The Bible has much to say about this topic and since we are nearing the Thanksgiving holiday, it seems appropriate to think about it.

Psalm 30 is a psalm of David where David praises and gives thanks to God for delivering him throughout his life. He was delivered from his foes (v. 1), from sickness (v. 2), and even from death (v. 3). David calls on all of God’s people to give thanks because “weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” God’s people may face trials and difficult circumstances, but we know that God is faithful and we will be delivered. One day, all of God’s people will be with him forever and the pain and suffering of this life will be finished. Therefore, we can give thanks even now.

Wherever you are and whatever you may be facing, know that God is faithful and will fulfill his promises to his people. We may face difficulty. We may face weeping for a night. But we know that deliverance is near. Joy comes in the morning. One day, we will proclaim with the psalmist, “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praises and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever!”

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The Devotion of the Early Church

small church

Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. On Sundays, I do not include supplemental material, but I do post a suggested Scripture reading. Please be sure to subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day. Thanks for reading!

Reading the Word

Acts 2:42–47 (ESV)

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Boldly Proclaiming Jesus Christ

Acts 238 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Acts 2:22–41 (ESV)

22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. 25 For David says concerning him,

‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; 26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. 27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. 28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’

29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,

‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, 35 until I make your enemies your footstool.’

36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

Understanding and Applying the Word

After receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, Peter stood up and began to preach. This is quite a change in Peter. Remember, he is the same person who had ran away when Jesus was arrested and then denied that he even knew Jesus. However, in the power of the Holy Spirit, he stood before the crowd and declared that Jesus was the Christ and that they had crucified him. When the crowd heard Peter’s words, they were convicted of their sin and asked what they should do. Peter told them to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus. Then they too would receive the Spirit and be equipped to tell others.

The disciples went from being cowards to boldly proclaiming the gospel because of the power of the Holy Spirit at work within them. Their transformation is amazing! We too have received the Spirit and given all we need to preach the truth of Jesus Christ to the world. We have no reason to fear, but have been called to go bravely into the world and call for repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

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The Gift of the Spirit

Acts 24 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Acts 2:1–13 (ESV)

1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus had promised that he would send the Holy Spirit to empower his disciples. In these verses, we see the fulfillment of that promise. It was a promise that God had made in the Old Testament Scriptures in Joel 2:28-29.

We read that the Spirit came in great power with the sound of a mighty wind and the appearance of flames. As a result of the Spirit’s coming, the disciples began to speak in tongues. This allowed the people around, who were from many different places and languages, to hear the disciples speak in their own native language. This was a supernatural ability to communicate in other languages!

The disciples had been told not to depart Jerusalem until they had received the Spirit. The reason for this was because they were not yet equipped and ready to go into the world with the gospel. Now they were ready. They had the Spirit and he would equip them with his great power. Since this day, every believer has been given the gift of the Spirit and empowered for the work of ministry. Jesus did not call us to go into the world in our own power and abilities, but in the power of God through the Holy Spirit.

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Casting Lots

person about to catch four dices

Photo by fotografierende on Pexels.com

 

Reading the Word

Acts 1:12–26 (ESV)

12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. 13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. 14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

15 In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, 16 “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” 18 (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. 19 And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20 “For it is written in the Book of Psalms,

‘May his camp become desolate, and let there be no one to dwell in it’;

and

‘Let another take his office.’

21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” 23 And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Before he ascended, Jesus told the disciples that he would soon send the Holy Spirit to them. Until then, they were to wait. So that is what the disciples did. They gathered together and devoted themselves to prayer.

During this time, they realized that they were short one disciple. Judas had abandoned the group and hung himself. They needed a replacement. There were two men that fit the requirements of having been with Jesus from his baptism until his ascension. The men were Justus and Matthias. In order to decide between the two, they cast lots. The decision was Matthias.

I have heard it mentioned a few times that casting lots is the way decisions should be made in the church today. It has been argued that elders and deacons could be chosen in this way to make sure God’s choice is followed. However, I think this is a mistake.

There is nowhere else in the New Testament where the casting of lots is used or encouraged. In fact, throughout the rest of the New Testament, we are instructed to make decisions by bringing the matter before the church. We are to use the collective wisdom and discernment of the body of Christ.

It is important to note that the casting of lots was used in the Old Testament to aid in large decisions. However, with the events of Acts 2, there was a major shift taking place in the way God was working in the world. The Holy Spirit would be poured out on every believer to equip them for the work of the ministry. This was not the case in the Old Testament (or in Acts 1). Believers today have the Spirit at work within to guide in wisdom and discernment. As the collected body of Christ comes together to make decisions, we do so with the Spirit at work in our midst to guide and direct us. We have been given a great gift and a better way to make decisions than casting lots.

You Will Be My Witnesses

Acts 18 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Acts 1:1–11 (ESV)

1 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Yesterday, we finished our look at the life of Christ as recorded in the four Gospel accounts. However, there are a few more verses that tell us about Jesus’ final days on earth. We find that information recorded in the first chapter of the Book of Acts.

Acts is the second book written by Luke, which is why he begins in the first verse saying, “In the first book.” Jesus had told his disciples that when he departed that he would send the Holy Spirit to them. Therefore, they were not to depart Jerusalem until that had taken place. They were called to be witnesses throughout the world, but they would not be properly equipped until the Spirit had come.

In the last moments of Jesus’ time on earth, the disciples were still confused over Jesus as the Messiah. They asked him if it was not time for him to set up his kingdom. After all, Jesus had been through so much. It must finally be time! Jesus’ response is one that we need to hear today also. He told the disciples, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

The disciples were wondering about the future and the timing of the end. Jesus told them not to concern themselves with such things. God did not intend for them to know the details of such. Instead, they needed to concentrate on what they had been called to do. They were to be witnesses. They were to go into the world, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and proclaim the gospel. That is our task as well. We must not let other things distract us from the main task at hand. The world is lost and in need of Christ. We are the ones who are called and equipped to carry the message of salvation to all.

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The Ongoing Influence of Jesus

Luke 2452–53 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Luke 24:50–53 (ESV)

50 And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.

Understanding and Applying the Word

With today’s reading, we come to the end of our time reading through the life of Jesus Christ as recorded in the four Gospel accounts. After Jesus’ resurrection he spent forty days on earth revealing himself to different individuals and groups and making final preparations for the future of his followers. At the end of those forty days, Jesus departed and ascended into heaven.

We might think that with Jesus no longer in the world that his teaching and influence would fade and disappear. However, nothing could be further from the truth. After Jesus’ departure, his fame and influence spread quickly. His original followers went throughout the known world proclaiming all they had seen and heard and many believed. Even today, the name of Jesus is known and discussed throughout the world. There are many who still hear the news about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection and believe. It is amazing to think how influential Jesus has been on our world. There is none like him!

The Bible tells us that those who hear the news about Jesus, repent of their sins, and turn to Jesus in faith, will be saved and have eternal life. He came into the world to give his life as a sacrifice for sin. He died. He was buried. And he rose from the dead in victory over sin and death. That is the Good News. He came to save us. Have you trusted in him?

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The Great Commission

Matthew 2819 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Matthew 28:16–20 (ESV)

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

As Jesus prepared to depart this world and return to the Father, he left his disciples with instructions. He told them that they were to “make disciples of all nations.” They were to accomplish this through “baptizing” and “teaching.” When we read these words, we can summarize the task given to the disciples as evangelism and discipleship. Jesus used the term “baptizing” to summarize bringing an unbeliever into the faith. Baptism is the picture of that. Jesus then used the word “teaching” to describe the ongoing growth of the believer as they learn the word of God and how to live in the world.

As believers today, our task remains the same. We are called to proclaim the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ to a lost world. In doing so, we will see unbelievers saved. As unbelievers are saved, it is then our responsibility to continue to teach the word of God so that new believers can grow to maturity. These twin callings are the core of the Christian life. May we go into the world as the people of Christ and proclaim the gospel.

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