Summer In the Psalms

In CS Lewis’ classic book The Screwtape Letters a demon, Screwtape, is training his nephew on how to tempt humans. He writes, “whatever their bodies do affects their soul. It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: In reality, our best work is done by keeping things out.”

Here is truth.

If Satan can keep the Word of God out of your mind, he will be successful without putting one thought in.

So, how about getting in the Word this summer? I wrote a little devotional called Summer in the Psalms—Book One, which you can download from our church home page. The book of Psalms is divided into five different books, Book One is chapters 1-41.

The purpose is to get everyone us into the Word of God this summer, whether you are camping, watching services from home, or going to a church building. By getting into the Word, I mean into the Bible, not into sermons, not into commentaries, not into YouTube. I love what others have to say about the Bible, but this summer we want to get into the Word. Period.

Warning: This will be more difficult than reading a devotional.

When you read a devotional, someone else has gone through the joy of getting into the Bible, finding cool truth, cutting it up into bite-sized morsels, and feeding it to you. It’s easy eating, but you miss something.

You miss hearing the steak sizzle on the grill. You miss the wonderful smell. You miss cutting in to see the perfect color. You miss biting in.

There is nourishment in pre-chewed steak for sure. But for the joy of discovery, for a renewed relationship with the Author of the Scriptures, nothing beats getting into the word for yourself.

Here is how it works:

Starting MAY 30, we will start going through the Psalms, Book One together. Each week we will go through just one Psalm in detail, then read two or three more over the weekend. Week one we will examine Psalm one. Each day is one small step in evaluating that Psalm so that at the end of the week you can list your discoveries. Each month we will use a different Bible Study Method to go through that one Psalm in detail. The Psalms are printed out in the booklet for you in the NIV, but feel free to use other versions to compare in your study.

Some help for you:

I figured this would be new for many of us, so I put an example of a week’s study below. I chose the first eight verses of Psalms 119, (A Psalm we are not doing this summer) as most of the Psalms we are studying are pretty short.

OK, below is the Psalm just like you will find it printed in the booklet. Then I put the booklet questions in bold type, with an example of possible answers in italics.

Example: Psalm 119:1-8

Ps 119:1 (NIV2011)  Blessed are those whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the LORD. 2  Blessed are those who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart— 3  they do no wrong but follow his ways. 4  You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed. 5  Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees! 6  Then I would not be put to shame when I consider all your commands. 7  I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws. 8  I will obey your decrees; do not utterly forsake me.

DAY 01: Observation: Read Psalms 119:1-8 three times. Don’t try to make conclusions or applications yet, just observe the story. Then either

  • Paraphrase it; that is, rewrite it in your own words, or
  • Outline it

So, here is my outline

  1. Blessed Are
    1. Those who are blameless
    1. Those who walk according to God’s laws
    1. Those who keep God’s laws
    1. Those who seek God
      1. They do no wrong
      1. They follow God’s ways
    1. Your ways are known and to be obeyed
  2. If I would be steadfast in obeying your decrees
    1. Then I won’t be put to shame when I read the Bible
    1. Then I will praise you as I learn the Bible
  3. I will obey, don’t give up on me.

OR, if I was going to do a paraphrase instead, this is what it might look like:

I’m blessed when I know God’s word and do it. Therefore, I need to know His word and follow it with all my heart. God took the time to tell me how to live, and I will be blameless if I will just follow it. I must persevere in obeying what I learn so that I don’t embarrass myself when I do these devotions. Thank You, Father, for giving me Your laws. I’m going to do what You asked, I know you won’t give up on me when I mess up.

DAY 02: Observation: Write your observations for each verse. Ask yourself, “What is being said?”

Verse 1: I’m blessed and blameless when I follow God’s word.

Verse 2: I’m blessed when I follow with all my heart–not partly but completely. 

Verse 3: I can’t do anything wrong when I am following God. That’s pretty cool to know.

Verse 4: God’s laws aren’t suggestions.

Verse 5: If I would just follow consistently that would make all the difference in my life.

Verse 6: Gods word should be encouraging not embarrassing.

Verse 7: I will worship as I do these devotions.

Verse 8: I will obey, period. God will be there to help me, even when I mess up.

Day 03: Interpretation: Write the meaning of each verse or section. Ask, “What does this mean? What is being taught?”

This is the hardest step for me. I would write something like…

I noticed that in the NLT the word that the NIV translates “blessed” is translated “joyful.” So, I think what is being taught is that those who study God’s word and put it into practice bring joy and blessing into their lives. The blessing doesn’t seem to be material or success, but a clean conscience, of following the Spirit and knowing you are pleasing God. It even brings joyful worship as we obey and as we study. As a result, it is foolish not to know and follow the Word of God.

Day 04: Correlation: Find cross-references for what you think is being taught in this Psalm. Is it taught anywhere else? You can use the little notes or references in the margins of your Bible to help.

The first I thought of was the rest of Psalms 119. Every verse seems to have some emphasis back on the Word of God and how it helps us. I also thought of Proverbs, those verses about God’s wisdom, and Deuteronomy 6 about training our kids in God’s word. Then I cheated and googled “obeying God’s word verses.” A few I found that seemed to really fit were;

  • Dt 28:1 (NIV2011)  If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations on earth.
  • Jn 14:23 (NIV2011)  Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.
  • Jas 1:22 (NIV2011)  Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
  • Ro 12:2 (NIV2011)  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Day 05: Application: Start three sentences with “I will…” You can also try praying the Psalm, it may be easiest to pray your paraphrase.

I prayed my paraphrase. Starting with; Heavenly Father I know I’m blessed when I know Your word and do it. Therefore, I will keep up this study this summer and follow with all my heart…


It may look like a lot but remember this is five days’ worth of study. It really doesn’t take that long. And remember, you only need it to impact you, no one else. This isn’t for a grade; it’s for relationship.

Here is truth.

If you can keep the Word of God increasing in your mind, you will be successful without worrying about what you need to keep out.




The Rest of the Story

[picture by Alessandro Cerino on Unsplash]

When I was a kid, my dad would listen to a radio show by Paul Harvey called The Rest of the Story. Paul Harvey would tell a story but at a key point stop and say, “In a minute you will hear the rest of the story.” Then they would go to the commercial break.

It was mean, really.

Anyway, after the commercial, he would give the shocking end and say, “And now you know the rest of the story.”

When a radio station says, “we will be right back, don’t move that dial,” you know what I do?

Yup, I move that dial.

Call me a rebel.

But never did I do that with Paul Harvey. I knew the best was coming.

Thankfully, so did Dad. So, we would wait.

Living in the Commercial Break

I don’t remember ever liking the commercials making me wait for the rest of the story. But, had there been no commercials, there would have been no story.

Before Paul Harvey, the New Testament writers used the story of Israel going to the Promised Land and waiting in the wilderness as their metaphor. As Israel was rescued out of slavery in Egypt through the blood of the lamb and was baptized in the Red Sea, so too we have been rescued from sin by the blood of the Lamb of God and been baptized into the body of Christ. (1 Cor 10, Hebrews 3-4) God was with Israel through the pillar of fire at night and cloud by day, and we are indwelt by the Spirit of God. But God’s blessing and presence in the wilderness was not the end of the story for Israel.

They had to pass through the wilderness to get to the Promised Land. Once there, due to disobedience, they had to wait for another 40 years for the rest of the story. In a sense, God being with them was their promised land as they waited to enter the physical Promised Land.

And we too are waiting, but as with Israel there is hope. In a sense, God living in and through us is our promised land as we wait for the rest of the story, the Promised Land when Jesus returns to rule.

The Stockdale Paradox

I got a book at a leadership conference years ago called Good to Great by Jim Collins. In it he tells a story of Jim Stockdale who was an America Vice Admiral during the war in Vietnam. Stockdale was captured, imprisoned, and tortured for over seven years.

How did he make it through?

What seems counterintuitive is that he said the first people to die in captivity were the optimists, who assumed they would get out quickly. They “died of a broken heart.” He later said, “I think there was a lot of damage done by optimists… the problem is, some people believe what professional optimists are passing out and come unglued when their predictions don’t work out.”

Stockdale believed that the key to survival was to combine realism and hope. “This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

Putting it all together, when asked how he survived when he had no idea if he would ever be rescued, he said: “I never lost faith in the end of the story. I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.”

How great it is to know the end of the story. We are not yet living in the Promised Land. But the One who is returning lives within us today. And for today, that’s enough. That’s our today promised land.

The Promised Land by TobyMac does a beautiful job putting music to this truth, combining realism and hope. I hope you like it.

Waiting for The Rest of the Story

  • Romans 12:12 (NIV2011)  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
  • Psalms 27:14 (NIV2011)  Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.
  • 2Peter 38:-18 (NIV2011)  Do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9  The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
    • 10  But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.
    •  11  Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12  as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.
    • 13  But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. …
    • 18  But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.

This Sunday at AnchorPoint we plan to be in Matthew 16:21-27, the instructions from Jesus on how and why to follow Him as we wait for His return.

Thanking God we know the rest of the story,