Psalm 128: The psalmist describes how God blesses an upright man with children. He also prays for national peace and prosperity.
Psalm 129: Israel has been oppressed by its enemies since its youth. But the righteous Lord has cut his nation free from the traps of the wicked.
Psalm 130: The psalmist praises the God who keeps no record of sins. He pleads with Israel to put its hope in the Lord, “for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.”
Psalm 131: The psalmist doesn’t focus on things too big for him. Instead, he focuses on the Lord, who calms his soul like a mother comforts her child.
Psalm 132: The psalmist asks God to remember David and David’s royal line, and to pour out blessings on them.
Psalm 133: When God’s people live in unity, it is joyful, pleasant and as refreshing as morning dew.
Psalm 134: The psalmist calls all of the people who serve God in his house to praise him.
The King’s Heart
“If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness” (Psalm 130:3-4).
He could hold it all against us. The holy God has every right to keep a running list of our evil. We have lied, cheated and shamefully lusted. And every sin we commit has deep roots in our blatant distrust of him. “God, I don’t think you’re good enough or able enough to take care of me. Since you and your plans aren’t good enough for me, I’m going to do things my way.”
God pours out pure love and goodness, yet we slap his tender goodness in the face. He should hit back. But he doesn’t. Instead, he takes it. Then, he took our punishment—blow after bloody blow, culminating at the cross.
If God kept a record of how we’ve injured him, there would be no way we could be close. Friendships can’t endure deep betrayals—unless the person offended chooses to completely forgive. But God did that, and more. He let us hurt him, and then to pay for it, he hurt himself.
“I’ll absorb every injury for us to be together,” God said as our sin pummeled him on the cross. “And then I’ll choose not to remember them.”
The book of Psalms is quoted more often in the New Testament than any other Old Testament book.
Part of Our Purpose
By Pastor Dan Hickling
“As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.”—John 17:18 (NKJV)
Although followers of Christ face the same unpredictable twists and turns of life as everyone else, and though the precise details of their future are as uncertain, they possess something that brings clarity and illumination to every step of their journey on earth. They know their purpose!
That purpose is to follow the Lord’s lead, which He established by coming into this world and following His Father’s will His entire time here. Christ is the precursor, if you will, for every Christian. Just as the Father sent His Son into the world to direct its attention Godward, the believer in Jesus has been sent on the same mission. If you’re a Christian, your purpose is to point people to God.
Essentially, this is what Jesus is declaring in the passage above. In context, He is praying to His Father on the eve of His arrest and crucifixion. As the shadow of the cross looms over these closing moments with His disciples (minus Judas), Jesus tells His Father something significant. He states that He had prepared His followers to serve as His representatives to the world, even as He had done for the Father.
This line of succession—from the Father . . . to Jesus . . . to the disciples—remains unbroken to this day. Every believer in Christ is subsequently linked to the statement He made on that evening. They have been sent into the world for the same purpose that Christ was sent into the world: to represent and point the way to God! Again, that’s the purpose of the Christian life!
It’s important to reinforce this because if you are a Christian, you know how easily this purpose can become obscured or displaced by other priorities. We wake up in the morning and our thoughts naturally gravitate towards ourselves. The kids need to be shuttled to school, the car needs an oil change, the dog needs to be groomed, etc. All these things need to be dealt with, but they’re not the primary purpose for life.
We tend to forget we are here on earth for the same reason Jesus came here: to point people to God. But as our sense of mission is restored, it affects and directs every aspect of life. Everything that would be a distraction from our purpose is now an opportunity to advance it—the carpool, the mechanic, the groomer—they’re all a part of our purpose.
DIG: What is the Christian’s purpose in life?
DISCOVER: How was this purpose established?
DO: Consider how you can be more mindful of your purpose in life.
Europe boasts some of the most diverse and beautiful scenery on the planet as well as a wealth of history and culture. And while the classics, like the Eiffel Tower and Big Ben, became so for a reason, you’d be missing out if you stuck to everyone else’s travel itinerary. If you like to be a little different when it comes to your vacation, here are ten unusual destinations in Europe that you might just want to take a look at.
Shark Museum, Iceland
Tucked away on Iceland’s Snæfellsnes peninsula, a two-hour drive from Reykjavik, you’ll find the tiny shark museum at Bjarnarhöfn. Inside, there’s an eclectic collection of shark-related memorabilia comprising everything from jawbones to fishing gear. But the real draw is the opportunity to try Greenland shark. Known locally as hákarl, this pungent meat has to be fermented and dried to remove poisonous toxins.
Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland
The curious columns and mostly hexagonal stepping stones of the Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim are all that’s left of an ancient volcanic eruption that occurred between 50 and 60 million years ago. According to local legend, however, the columns are the remains of a causeway built by a giant called Finn MacCool. Today, this UNESCO-listed coastline is one of Northern Ireland’s most popular attractions.
At first, the grounds of Hellbrunn seem to be nothing out of the ordinary, just another of Austria’s elegantly manicured palace gardens. But Hellbrunn, located in the suburbs of Salzburg, is a little different. Hidden in the stonework of fountains, chairs and flowerbeds are trick fountains. As the guide delivers his entertaining spiel, your attention will be distracted long enough for you to get a soaking.
When disaster struck Chernobyl’s nuclear reactor back in 1986, those living in the nearby city of Pripyat had almost no time at all to evacuate. The city’s 49000 inhabitants fled their homes and businesses which were just a few kilometers from the doomed plant. Today, the level of radiation is low enough that tours can safely be arranged. Travelers to this dark place will see abandoned classrooms, ghostly amusement parks and derelict streets that once bustled with activity.
Old Operating Theatre Museum, UK
Tucked away in the garret (attic) of St Thomas’ Church on the original site of St Thomas’ Hospital in London is the oldest surviving operating theatre in Europe. It dates from 1822, an era when modern medicine was still a pipe dream. There was no such thing as anesthesia or antiseptic, and not surprisingly, the death rate was extremely high. But these days it makes for fascinating viewing.
Paris Catacombs, France
More than six million people are interred in the underground ossuaries of Paris which date from the 18th century. Originally these tunnels and underground spaces were built to ease the pressure on the French capital’s crowded cemeteries. Each night, under cover of darkness, covered wagons would process through the streets with their grisly loads. These skulls and other bones have been open to the public since 1874 and remain one of Paris’ most compelling visitor attractions.
This precariously-perched boulder connects two sheer rock faces of a mountain that plunges almost a kilometer down towards the fjord below. The five-cubic-meter lump of stone was left there by a glacier long since melted and is now a popular spot for Instagrammers and daredevils alike. It’s a reasonably straightforward hike so long as you have good shoes, but to really get the adrenaline pumping you’ll need to join the BASE jumpers who favor the site.
Parc Güell, Spain
Antoni Gaudí’s curious architecture can be found throughout Barcelona. Crowds flock to the still unfinished Sagrada Familia but it’s the brightly-colored mosaics of Parc Güell’s terraces and columns that are the showstopper. Once intended to be a housing estate, this “failure” is now one of the city’s most popular parks. Its elevated position on Carmel Hill affords visitors breathtaking views across Spain’s second largest city, and the quirky architecture and ceramic murals make for a bright spot in the city.
Bocca della Verità, Italy
Visitors to Rome should make their way to the entrance hall of the Santa Maria in Cosmedin church to see the marble mask which featured in the 1953 film Roman Holiday starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. It depicts the face of a pagan god, perhaps Oceanus, and is said to bite down on the hand of a liar. Thus it has become the custom for tourists to place their hand in its mouth to test out the Bocca della Verità (Mouth of Truth).
Höga Kusten, Sweden
It’s not often that you have to ride a chair lift up a mountain to reach the coast, but in Sweden that’s exactly how you’ll find the world’s highest coastline. Once, the Höga Kusten (High Coast) was squashed under the weight of a mighty ice sheet, but once the ice melted, the land sprang upwards —286 meters upwards, in fact. The movement left what was once the sea shore stranded far above today’s glittering waves. Once you’ve admired the view, descend for a walk along today’s beautiful beaches.
Enthusiastic advocate for independent travel and passionate geographer, Julia considers herself privileged to earn a living doing something she loves. When not roaming the globe, you’ll find her windswept but smiling, chatting away to her two dogs as they wander the Essex marshes.
Can you even imagine how much of a game changer it would be if, as you drove the kids to soccer, did laundry, walked to third period, led a staff meeting, ran on the treadmill,or waited to fall asleep, you allowed into your mind “only the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly” (Phil. 4:8 MSG)?
Would you even recognize the peace-filled person you had become?
A study back in the 1980s revealed that people have on average 500 intrusive thoughts every 16 hours, each lasting an average of 14 seconds.
Many of these intrusions are just worries or anxious thoughts; 18 percent are mean, unacceptable, or politically incorrect—and 13 percent are ugly or downright shocking: shoving a stranger off the subway platform, running over a pedestrian, stabbing a partner, raping or strangling someone, smothering an elderly parent, or driving your car off a bridge.
That amounts to 116 minutes a day of some sort of unwanted, unwelcome, unhelpful thoughts stealing our joy and neutralizing our effectiveness.
The difference is what we do with our intrusive thoughts.
To be clear, the problem isn’t that these thoughts show up.
The problem is that we let them pull out the sofa bed and spend the night.
An old saying warns us that you can’t stop birds from flying around your head, but you don’t have to let them build a nest in your hair. This is why it is so essential to install a checkpoint in your mind. Without such a filter, you risk two hours of thoughts sneaking through and causing untold amounts of terror and damage to your peace and your God-given power.
When you force each thought to go through this screening before you allow it to remain, you can take back control from fear, shame, jealousy, guilt, and doubt. You’ll find that being so alert to what you’re thinking will have a huge impact on your emotions.
Remember, you can change the way you feel by changing the way you think. Where the head goes the body must follow.
Don’t let negative thoughts control your feelings or actions.
I am a big baby, and also a control freak. When things aren’t going my way or when my plans are being changed or misunderstood, I find myself bristling. I feel like a bird whose feathers are being rubbed the wrong direction. I sense Evil Levi rising.
But when I remember to put those negative thoughts through the scanner, I can clearly see that I am thinking only about myself.
If I take the time to articulate why I’m unhappy and what is causing me to act out (yelling at my kids, being short with my wife, being overly harsh with someone at work, or being mad at a complete stranger who I think is being a jerk), I can trace those actions to feelings, and the feelings back to thoughts I never should have allowed in my head in the first place.
Think about a time you did something you regretted: cutting off someone while driving, sending a mean text, chewing someone out. (If you can’t think of anything, feel free to borrow an example from my life; I have an abundance of mistakes for you to work with.) Now think of the feelings you were having that led to that decision. Behind those feelings were probably thoughts that didn’t belong.
Understand that your thought patterns are like city trains.
I love visiting New York City. It’s like no other place on earth.
The buzz is contagious, and you can’t help but feel your heart quicken just being there. I love waking up early and walking the streets of SoHo before things get humming.
New York might be the city that never sleeps, but on the weekends, it is definitely the city that sleeps in. If you get up at the right time, you can have the place virtually to yourself. Watching the sunrise while walking the cobblestone streets by yourself is spectacular.
Despite the many times I have been to New York, I am still an absolute amateur at navigating the subway. Complete rookie noob status times 10,000. Even if I can figure out which train I need to take, I absolutely stink at figuring out which side of the street to enter the subway platform from, which has everything to do with whether the train is heading uptown or downtown.
More times than I care to admit, I have gotten on the subway going the opposite direction I need to go. The feeling of the little lights on the subway map moving in the wrong direction is the worst.
My friend Kevin Gerald likes to say that “thoughts are like trains—they take you somewhere.”
You can avoid a train that’s headed to a dangerous destination by not boarding it in the first place. What do you do when you identify a thought that doesn’t pass inspection?
The same thing TSA would do to you if the X-ray Machine showed a weapon in your carry-on:
You take it captive.
Don’t let it into your mind for a minute.
Show it no mercy.
Give it no quarter.
Send that thought to the pit of despair.
Don’t be kind. Remember, this is war.
Levi Lusko, author of the bestelling books Through the Eyes of a Lion and Swipe Right, is the lead pastor of Fresh Life Church in Montana, Wyoming, Oregon, and Utah. He and his wife, Jennie, have one son, Lennox, and four daughters, Alivia, Daisy, Clover, and Lenya, who is in heaven. Levi travels around the world speaking about Jesus.