Friday, Feb. 28

To listen to the audio version, click here.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
    and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and uphold me with a willing spirit.
Psalm 51:10-12

This may be the best known and best loved part of David’s great confession Psalm.  I can’t help hearing the old Keith Green classic song from this text in my head.  However, as familiar as these verses may be to some of us, they contain an incredibly powerful truth about how our God treats sinners.  There are three basic prayers or pleas to God; Create in me, Cast me not away, and Restore me.  These three cries form the foundation of a heart truly seeking God.

Create In Me...
David asks God to create a new heart in him.  The Hebrew word used for create is the word ‘bara’, Bara' is used in the Genesis account of creation...”In the beginning God created (bara') the heavens and the earth.”  God created the world from nothing.  “I need a new heart,” David says.  “Create in me a new heart,” and the word create actually means “out of nothing.”  In other words, he asks for nothing less than a miracle, he desires what only God can provide.

In other words, there was nothing in David’s heart that God could use. He was not asking for renovation or reformation. He was asking for something new. Sometimes we hear the invitation, “Give God your heart.”  What do you think God wants with that old dirty, filthy heart of yours?  God is not asking anybody to give Him their heart so that he can clean it up or repair it. He wants to give you a new one!

C.H. Spurgeon writes, “Create? What! has sin so destroyed us, that the Creator must be called in again? What ruin then doth evil work among mankind! “Create in me.” In outward fabric, I still exist; but I am empty, desert, void. Come, then, and let Thy power be seen in a new creation within my old fallen self. Thou didst make a man in the world at first; Lord, make a new man in me!”

Cast Me Not Away...
Let me ask you a question; what is the worst consequence of your sin?  Most people tend to think of the consequences of their sin (if they think of it at all) in terms of earthly consequences.  We worry about what would happen if people found out; What would they think of us?  Would we lose our job?  Would it damage the trust in our marriage?  Of course there are very real earthly consequences for our sin, but these are not the worst result, not at all!  

Which are you more concerned about when it comes to your sin - other people finding out, or growing disconnected from God? 

David understands that nothing in this world is as important as the loving presence of God.  He knows that the one thing he can’t live without is the presence of God.  As David himself wrote earlier in the Psalms...

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.  - Psalm 16:11

Restore To Me...
David asks God to bring back his joy and to give him a willing spirit.  Joy and willing obedience go together. When you enjoy doing something or when you enjoy the person for whom you are doing it, you serve willingly. David is saying, "I have been in bondage because I have not confessed my sin. Therefore, I lost my joy and my willing spirit. I lost that real delight that comes from obeying God." How can you restore joy? Confess your sin. Then look to Jesus Christ, not yourself. If you look at yourself, you won't rejoice. But if you look to Him, you will rediscover the joy of His salvation. God intends that you rejoice in your salvation.

When was the last time you felt the true joy of God’s salvation?  When was the last time you experienced the joy of knowing God’s loving forgiveness for you?

Has it been a while?

Well, let me ask you another question - When was the last time you poured out your heart in confession to Him?

Jeff Frazier

Thursday, Feb. 27

To listen to the audio version, click here.

For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is ever before me. 
Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
    and blameless in your judgment.
Psalm 51:3-4

This is a very interesting part of David’s confession, and there is a lot we can learn from it about what a true heart for God looks like.  David says that his sin is ever before him, what does this mean?  

I think this is a litmus test for a truly repentant heart.  The question is, do you see your sin?  It might sound like a simple question, but human beings have a remarkable capacity not to see their own sin.  We are very good at ignoring, rationalizing, deflecting, blaming, and just flat our denying our sinfulness.  Notice that David makes no attempt at all to shift the blame or to rationalize his sin before God.  He uses phrases like “my sin”, “my transgressions”, and “I sinned”.  

The old puritan pastor and theologian Thomas Brooks once wrote, “nothing in the world is ours so much as our sin.”  Oh how we wish it weren’t true.  We would like to pass it off on somebody else, we would like to say it was our circumstances and that we are really the victim, but David’s prayer shows us that the pathway back to God is not going around our sin, it is facing it!

C.H. Spurgeon wrote this about what it means to face our sin...”To an awakened conscience, pain on account of sin is not fleeting or momentary, it is constant.  This is no sign of divine wrath, but rather a preface to abounding grace.”  

Sometimes, facing our sin means we need someone to help us see it, someone to point it out to us.  God sent the prophet Nathan to do that for David.  Nathans help us see what we have become callous and blinded to in ourselves.  Nathans help point us back to God by pointing out where have strayed from Him.  If you have a Nathan in your life, you should praise God for sending them to you.  I know, I know, my first reaction when somebody tries to point out sin in my life is not usually to thank them and to praise God either.   But I have had some Nathans in my life, individuals that God used to help me see an attitude or and area of my life that was not pleasing to him, that was sinful.  Looking back, I can see that God used those people to help me truly see my sin, and to repent and seek God’s forgiveness.  They were the beginning of my restoration to a right relationship with God.  Being a Nathan is not an easy job, but in a sense, this is one of the most loving things you can do for a person.

In the second part of the passage, David says, “against you and you only have I sinned.”  What is David talking about here?  What about Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba, the one David lied to and had killed, didn’t David sin against him?  What about Bathsheba?  Didn’t David sin against her?  What about the kingdom of Israel?  Didn’t David sin against the people when he committed these terrible offenses?  Of course he did, David sinned against all of these and more.

David is not saying that he hasn’t hurt anyone else through his sin, he is saying that he sinned against God first.  Your (and mine) sin which wounds another, is wrong first because it offends God, and only secondarily because it hurt others.  David understands that true confession means getting the audience right.  If we think of our sin purely in terms of earthly consequences and human relationships, then we will be much more likely to give ourselves a pass at times.  We may think, “well this is really as much her fault as it is mine”,  “I’m sure they understand that I didn’t mean it the way it sounded”, etc.  But if we come to see our sin as an offense against a Holy God, the one who made us in His image, The Creator of all that exists, the King of Glory, then we will have no excuse (and that is the point).  This is what David means when he says, “against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight”.  David is insisting on seeing his sin the way God sees it.  This is the only way that he, and we, can come to the place where can say...

The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.  Psalm 103:8-12
Jeff Frazier

Wednesday, Feb. 26

To listen to the audio version, click here.

Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
Psalm 51:1

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin!
Psalm 51:2

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Psalm 51:7

At the end of verse one, David asks God to “blot out” his transgressions.  The Hebrew word that is translated “blot out” is the word Mahah, and it means to wipe clean, to remove all trace.  I can’t help thinking of all the crime scene shows on TV.  The criminal tries to wipe away all evidence (fingerprints, blood, etc.) of the crime, but inevitably, there is always some trace left for the police to find.  David is asking God to remove all trace of his sin, to wipe his record completely clean.  Of course we would all like to have all record of the wrongs we have done completely wiped clean!  

But then in the 2nd, and again in the 7th verse, David asks God to wash him.  David is saying that it is not enough just to have his record expunged, he wants to washed clean personally.  When we sin, it is not just our wrong actions or words that need to be forgiven...we need to be cleansed.  

The Hebrew word used here for wash is the word kabas, and it almost always refers to washing clothes.  For example, in Exodus, when God wanted to have Moses prepare the people to come into His presence he told Moses to have them consecrate themselves by washing their clothes. And the Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes” (Exodus 19:10).  
Washing clothes in the ancient world was not an easy task.  In Moses’ day, most women washed their clothes by stomping them under their feet against rocks under water.  Then they would wring them out and beat them against flat rocks in the sun.  They would do this repeatedly until the dirt and the stains were all removed.  Do you get the image David is using here?  He is not talking about taking a gentle sponge bath, he is talking about being scrubbed, stamped, pounded and washed thoroughly!  

David mentions that he wants God to cleanse him with hyssop.  Hyssop was a bushy plant and it was frequently used in OT cleansing rituals.  In Leviticus, God commanded His people to use hyssop in the ceremonial cleansing of people and houses. When the Israelites marked their doorposts with lamb’s blood in order for the angel of death to pass over them, God instructed them to use a bunch of hyssop as a “paintbrush”.  Hyssop also appears at Jesus’ crucifixion, when the Roman soldiers offered Jesus a drink of wine vinegar on a sponge at the end of a stalk of hyssop.  Essentially, the reference to hyssop tells us that David is not just asking God to make him physically clean, but spiritually clean as well.

I think the desire to be truly “clean” is deep in the heart of every one of us.  We may not like to admit it, we may not even be very aware of it most of the time, but deep down, we know that we are not clean inside.  We all have parts of our lives that we feel are too dirty or unclean to be brought into God’s presence.

The truth is that we cannot come into God’s presence unless we have been washed clean.  We are too deeply stained with sin to come before our God, we must be cleansed first.  The trouble is that we are not capable of washing ourselves.  This is why David asks God to wash Him, and this is why we look to the blood of Jesus Christ to cleanse us from our sin.  

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.  - 1 John 1:7

Jeff frazier

Tuesday, Feb. 25

To listen to the audio version, click here.

Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin!
    Psalm 51:1-2

If (as we have been learning) worship is the act of ascribing ultimate value or worth to someone or something, and if the only one in all the universe worthy or our worship is the God of the Bible, then God must be far beyond us in every possible way.  Worshipping God means recognizing His absolute perfection, what the Bible calls “holiness”.  To worship this holy God also means to recognize how unholy and imperfect we are in His presence.  

This is why confession is a gateway into true worship.  We cannot come into the presence of a holy God with any kind of entitlement or presumption.  We can only approach Him in humility, acknowledging our sin and our need for His mercy and grace.

Psalm 51 is David’s great confession Psalm.  He wrote this Psalm sometime after (we really don’t know how long) he was confronted about his great sin.  David had seduced and slept with a woman that was not his wife, in fact she was the wife of one of his generals.  He tried to cover it up by deceiving her husband, and when that didn’t work, David essentially had him killed.  You can read about all of this in 2 Samuel 11.  But be warned, the account of David’s lust, adultery, cover-up and murder read more like something for a cable TV drama, than a Bible story.  The chapter ends with what may be the most understated verse in all of the Bible.  “The thing David had done displeased the Lord.” (2 Sam. 11:27)

For a while it seemed like David might get away with it.  However, God had other plans, he sent a prophet named Nathan to confront David about his sin.  It took a little while for David to get the message, but eventually he recognized the awful weight of what he had done and he confessed his sin.  Then in 2 Samuel 12:13, Nathan simply says, “the Lord has put away your sin”  What??  Just like that?  How can God just put away such terrible sins of adultery and murder?

In a sense, Psalm 51 shows us how it is possible for God to forgive and restore even the worst of sinners.  This Psalm is essentially an anatomy of a confession.  

Notice the basis of David’s appeal, he asks on the basis of two things: first, “according to your steadfast love.” He understands that he himself deserves nothing from God, that God is not bound to forgive him. Some people are never able to realize forgiveness because they think they deserve it, that God owes it to them. But David knows better. He realizes that only because of God's love may he even approach God to ask. On the basis of that unqualified acceptance, that marvelous continuing love-that-will-not-let-me-go, he says to God, “I am coming to you and asking now for this.”
Second, as David appeals to God “according to your abundant mercy,” he again indicates his understanding of the character of God. God is not an old miser when it comes to mercy; He does not dole out bits of mercy, drop by drop. No, He pours it out. His are abundant mercies. When God forgives, He forgives beyond our imagination. 
Two figures of speech that are used in the Old Testament depict the forgiveness of God. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12). How far is that? Well, how far do you have to go east before you start going west? You never come to west. Then God says He will “hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19). Someone has added that he puts up a sign that reads “NO FISHING.” Do not go down there and try to fish old sins out once God has dealt with them. What relief comes when we begin to understand this fullness of God's forgiveness.

Father, thank You that I can come to You with my sin and cry out for mercy and love. Your love is steadfast; your mercy is abundant. I trust that You are always willing to forgive - Amen.

Jeff Frazier

Monday, Feb. 24

To listen to the audio version, click here.

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;
    let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.

Let us come before him with thanksgiving
    and extol him with music and song.

For the Lord is the great God,
    the great King above all gods.

In his hand are the depths of the earth,
    and the mountain peaks belong to him.

The sea is his, for he made it,
    and his hands formed the dry land.

Come, let us bow down in worship,
    let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;

for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture,
    the flock under his care.

- Psalm 95:1-7

This Psalm is one of the classic texts in all of the Bible on worship.  It is the called the Venite because that is the first word Venite = “Come”.  It invites us to come into the presence of God and worship him with all that we are.  The word worship comes from the old english “worth-ship”, and it means to ascribe worth, or value to an object.  To recognize the true worth and value of someone or something and to act accordingly.  

Let me give you an example:  Imagine you are cleaning out you grandmothers attic.  As you go through old trunks and boxes of things, you come across an old shoebox full of cheap costume jewelry.  Your mom tells you to either take it home or toss it in the trash.  You decide to take it home with you for sentimental reasons.  20 years go by, and that old shoe box is buried somewhere in your basement.  Then one day, your daughter finds it and begins to play dress up with some of the items.  You notice her wearing a brooch you don’t ever remember seeing before, she says it came from that old box in the basement.  On a whim, you decide to take it to a jeweler to have it appraised.  As the old jeweler is examining it, he suddenly gasps, his eye loupe pops out.  He turns to you and says,”do you realize what you have here?”  “No”, you reply.  He goes on to tell you that this brooch is one of the most rare and precious pieces of jewelry in the world!  It is more valuable than all of the jewels he has ever had in his shop combined.  In fact it’s value cannot really be calculated, it is quite literally priceless!  Now what do you do with that brooch?  Do you put it back in the old shoebox in the basement with the rest of the junk?  No way!  You will act totally differently toward that piece of jewelry now that you know its value.  This is essentially what happens to so many people, even in the church, we just do not recognize the incredible worth and value of what we have in Christ.

True Christian worship is to ascribe ultimate worth or value to the proper object - to God!  This is what the Psalmist is urging us to do in Psalm 95, to recognize, acknowledge, and act upon the reality that God is the only object worthy of our worship.

Notice that each time the Psalmist calls people to “Come” to worship, he follows that call up by giving the people thoughtful reasons why they should come and worship God.

Psalm 95:1 - Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord...

Psalm 95:3 - For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods...

Psalm 95:6 - Come, let us bow down in worship...

Psalm 95:7 - For he is our God and we are the people of his pasture...

Why should we worship God?  Because He is the most valuable and worthy object in the universe!  Because He is the one true God, the great King above all gods,  He made all that exists, and everything belongs to Him.  Not only that, but we also belong to Him, and He cares for us the way a shepherd cares for his sheep.  Therefore, let us come and worship this incredible God!

Jeff Frazier

Friday, February 21

To listen to the audio version, click here.

Psalm 100
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.
A couple of weeks ago I saw that the price of a ticket to the Super Bowl had climbed to about $1500 for the cheapest seats. Thousands of people gladly ponied up that price and, in many cases, much, much more for the chance to be part of the extravagant spectacle that is the Super Bowl.
So whats the price for entering into the presence of the God of the universe?
The Psalm writer says:
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
See that? We dont have to buy a ticket to experience God! In fact, theres no amount of money that can purchase entrance to his glorious presence. All we have to bring is thanksgiving and praise.
In Psalm 51 we read:

For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.

While giving of our wealth is certainly to be part of our worship, and generosity is an expression of both obedience and worship, God is not overly impressed with our money. Neither is he particularly interested in the style of music we employ in our worship. At FBCG we are blessed to be able to offer several styles of music to compliment our worship; from mostly traditional to mostly contemporary to somewhere in between. Interestingly, none of this seems to matter much to God! What he wants most is our hearts.

The two postures of heart mentioned in this Psalm are thanksgiving and praise.

I think we are being taught that we cannot even begin to worship God; we cannot experience his presence and glory; until we offer thanksgiving and praise.

It seems to me that this is so because we can only offer thanksgiving and praise by humbling ourselves. We are thankful because we have received gifts we do not deserve; and we offer praise because we are approaching one who is greater than ourselves.

The Psalm is teaching us that our worship is not dependent on our musical style or singing ability; our worship is not about the size of the check we put in the offering plate; our worship is about the posture of our hearts before God.

Lord God, teach me to begin and end each day with thanksgiving on my lips and in my heart. Teach me to praise you with my heart, my words, my actions and my very life.

Brian Coffey

Thursday, February 20

To listen to the audio version, click here.

Psalm 100
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.
A number of years ago, just after I had become Senior Pastor at FBCG, we had a particularly powerful and uplifting worship service at our East Campus. Our worship teams work hard week by week to plan worship in a way that helps our church family sense and respond to the presence of God; but this service was especially powerful. In particular, the sanctuary choir and orchestra presented an anthem that was so moving that I just had to respond; so as piece ended and I stepped to the pulpit I started to clap...and the whole congregation followed. It was a moment of spontaneous joy offered as an act of worship. In our culture clapping is what we do when we enjoy or appreciate something. Generally, we dont scream or shout or jump up and down in church like we would at a football game...we just clap.

By the time I got to my office after the services were over I found a note slipped under my door. It was a rather critical and ugly note that included the phrase, “You set the church back 20 years today by encouraging applause in worship.” Something like that.

That note made me sad. It made me sad, first of all, because the person who wrote it completely misunderstood my intent. It made me sad, second,  because it revealed a heart that was incapable of expressing joy in worship. The truth is, I should have been trying to set us back 2000 years!

Look at what the Psalm says!

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
I know its a lousy analogy in many ways but these words remind me of what I felt and how I expressed myself at my sons State Championship football game. When his team scored a touchdown, believe me, I shouted for joy! When the game ended and he became a state champion, I was filled to overflowing with gladness!
What strikes me is that I am capable of feeling and expressing great joy and gladness; I am capable of shouting so loud that I risk rupturing a vocal chord and embarrassing myself all at the same time! And thats just a high school football game!
But what about when I come into the presence of God himself? When I offer my worship to the God who created me, gave me life itself, loved me enough to die for me, and promises to dwell in me through his Spirit and to dwell with me forever?
Do I shout with joy or do I mumble a few lines of a song? Is my heart filled with gladness or do I steal glances at my watch wondering when the service will be over? Is there anything at all about my worship that could be called extravagant or joyful or even glad?
Lord God, forgive me and forgive us for reserving the joy of our hearts for lesser things. Teach us to see the beauty and joy of your own nature and to respond with great gladness!
Brian Coffey

Wednesday, February 19

To listen to the audio version, click here.

Romans 1:20
For since the creation of the world Gods invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

A couple of weeks ago there was a very public debate about creation versus evolution between Ken Ham (who is a “young earth” creationist) and an evolutionist named Bill Nye.
I didnt watch the debate and only read a couple of reviews of the event because I have mixed feelings about that sort of argument. Personally, I lean more toward the “old-earth” creationist position, which is to say I believe the Bible teaches that God created the heavens and the earth but I believe Genesis leaves room for the universe to be much, much older than 6 or 7,000 years.
Having said that, I think whats most important to recognize is that the central issue is really not science ersuss religion at all. The Bible is not anti-science and Christians need not be afraid of or intimidated by science. In fact, quite the opposite! I believe the pursuit of science honors God!
Think about it; the Bible teaches that human beings are created in the image of God which means, among other things, that human intelligence and curiosity comes from God himself. So when we seek to understand the secrets of the universe or the order of creation we are actually honoring the God who created us to do so.
I believe the central issue in the debate over creation versus evolution is always faith. The origins of the universe and the reason for the existence of humankind simply cannot be proven by science. It takes faith to believe the universe came about by random forces of nature; it takes faith to believe that the earth, with its combination of atmosphere, temperature, and water perfectly tuned for human life, came about by chance; just as it takes faith to believe that everything was created by the eternal God who exists outside of space and time.
The writer of Psalm 100 states his faith simply and clearly. 
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his...
Just as it is sometimes said that “ownership is 9/10ths of the law” so it could be said that once we establish “creatorship” we know where our worship belongs.
The Apostle Paul goes even further, suggesting that the evidence for a creator is so overwhelming that those who fail to acknowledge God are simply refusing the obvious.
For since the creation of the world Gods invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

Along with the ancient Psalm writer Paul would say that all science should lead toward God, not away from him.   Each time we discover a new species of animal or plant; when physicists discover smaller and smaller sub-atomic particles; when astro-physicists discover the universe is even more vast than previously thought; our hearts should leap with joy and our knees bend in awe before the eternal power and divine nature of the God who created all things, including us, for his glory.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us...

Brian Coffey