Thursday, 29 March 2012

A Really Good Book

Mike and I finished reading the book of Psalms last night. For the last couple of months, every night after getting settled into bed, I have opened my Bible to the book of Psalms and read aloud the words found in this ancient compilation of prayer and praise. It's been like a late night snack…a tasty morsel that feeds and satisfies the soul. It directs the thinking away from the fears and worries of this world to the greatness of God. It provides comfort and joy and hope in times of trouble.

I started reading the Bible in elementary school. In Catechism class, I learned my way around the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John); the first four books of the New Testament. It's a good place to start reading this great big book. I enjoyed reading about the life and times of Jesus. When I was a teenager, I made the decision to follow Jesus and I asked Him into my heart. My "religious" experience was entering into a relationship with the One I read about and was taught about as a young girl. Now He was more than a wonder I read about in black ink on white pages; He became my friend, my Saviour and the Lord of my life…I simply opened the door of my heart and invited Him in…He happened to be right there knocking.

As an older teenager, I would lay on my bedroom floor with this great big book and devour the New Testament; soaking up the writings of the Apostle Paul and James, Peter and John. The Psalms and Proverbs from the Old Testament also captivated me.  I would underline and highlight words and sentences and paragraphs that spoke to me in profound ways.
Over time, the book of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Danielle got my attention and only in the last few years I have really come to appreciate other Old Testament writings. But through thick and thin, through the good, the bad and the ugly, the Book of Psalms has always been there to comfort and encourage me.

One of my favourite modern day writers and Bible teachers is Stormie Omartian. This is what Stormie says about the book of Psalms:
Here, in Israel's ancient hymnal, we find every kind of prayer imaginable: exuberant praises and terrified cries for help, spontaneous songs of thanksgiving and carefully constructed statements of divine truth, national laments and individual confessions, lengthy expressions of trust and concise pleas for justice.

No matter what the state of your soul – sorrow, doubt, joy, anger, gratitude, guilt, or wonder – Psalms will teach you how to express your heart honestly, authentically, thoroughly.
If you spend time reading and understanding these prayers and then take them and make them your own, you will find a more satisfying prayer life. Much more than that, you will find God Himself. Then you will be able to exult with the psalmist "Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the person who takes refuge in Him" (Psalm 34:8).

Here are a few words from the book of Psalms, allowing them to speak for themselves:
In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation…Let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. For surely, O Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favour as with a shield. (Ps 5)

The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord have never forsaken those who seek you. (Ps 9)

You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry. (Ps10)

I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken…You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. (Ps16)

I call on you, O God, for you will answer me; give ear to me and hear my prayer…Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings. (Ps 17)

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul…(Ps 23)

The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid? For in the day of trouble He will keep me safe in His dwelling; He will hide me in the shelter of His tabernacle and set me high upon a rock. (PS 27)

The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all. (Ps 34)

I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory…my flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Ps 73)

When I said, "My foot is slipping," Your love, O Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul. (Ps 94)

Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits – who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. (Ps 103)

Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, his love endures forever. (Ps 118)

I'm guessing when Mike and I go to bed tonight, Mike will ask if I'm going to read from the Psalms and I will open my Bible and start from the beginning. After all, it helps us sleep well.

I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8

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