Category Archives: The Christian Life

Better than Dove Chocolate and a whole bunch of money

chocolateThe commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.  The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.  More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.  Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them  there is great reward.  Psalm 19:8b-11

David is revelling in God’s Word.  Are you starting to get the idea that the Bible is a big deal?

The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.  Commands and precepts are similar.  They aren’t God’s suggestions, they are “must do’s.”  We can’t take them or leave them or explain them away.  The commands of God are pure, or radiant, and they give us light.  David wrote in Psalm 119:105 that God’s word is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path.  In other words, as we stake our lives on the Bible and obey what is written in it, we will receive guidance from God.  He will direct our steps.

Take the opposite side for a minute.  If you don’t have any regard for God’s commands, your eyes will be dark.  Have you had ‘dark eyes’?  Do you someone else like that?  They are troubled and evil minded.  And, your path will be muddy and jumbled.  You won’t get to where you try to get to.  Something will always get in the way.  That’s because you’re not doing things God’s way.  Things won’t work out then.

The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever.  In Proverbs 1:7 we find that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (or wisdom).”  If we fear God that means that we take His Word seriously and have an intent to obey, knowing that God always gets His way.  God’s word is clean, pure, and perfect.  And God’s Word endures forever.

There aren’t many things that endure forever.  Our stuff doesn’t.  Our hobbies don’t.  Our souls do, what God says (His Word, or the Bible) does, and things we do that have eternal value last forever.  Matthew 6:19 tells us to store up treasures in Heaven.  One way to do that is spend time on spiritual things, like prayer and Bible study.

The rules of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.  Other words for rules are judgments, laws or ordinances.  God’s judgments are just and righteous.  Psalm 119:160 summarizes this well by saying, “The sum of Your Word is truth, and every one of Your righteous rules endures forever.”  If you pick a fight with God, you’re bound to lose.  So surrender to the rightness of His ways and you will find peace.

More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.  God’s words are more precious than a big bank account.  And they are sweeter than Dove chocolate.  Can you say this?

By them is Your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.  God’s commands give us warnings for those who violate them and rewards  for those who keep them.  The rewards are usually not monetary, though it can involve having a blessed life.  That blessed life extends from this life into a guaranteed eternal life in Heaven.

May you have the enabling power of the Holy Spirit to obey God’s commands and to experience God’s rewards.

 


The Bible Stands

Bible thumper

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart.  Psalm 19: 7-8

David is declaring his praise for God’s law, and more generally, all of God’s written word.  We know it as the Bible.  How we view and esteem the Bible is foundational to our faith.  If our beliefs about the Bible are faulty, our faith will be faulty as well.

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.   There are no mistakes or contradictions in the Bible, contrary to the claims of doubters.  The Bible is also sufficient to meet all of our needs.  Some may say that this is a book written by men, but that is not true.  God told 40 men what to write through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  They wrote using their personality and writing style, but rest assured, the Bible is God’s words.  

And they are accurate and authoritative and they convert or revive our soul.  In other words, as we digest God’s words, they change us from the inside out. And they give us spiritual life and health.

The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.   That means that what God says about Himself, where we started and why we are here is true.  It is also trustworthy, rock solid and prove-able.  What God says, He will do.  He will always keep His promises and we can rest on that truth.  This makes us simple, or humble, people wise.  If you want wisdom and humility, make the Bible your best friend.  

The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart or giving joy to our hearts.  Precepts are things that we are responsible for carrying out.  They are God’s decrees and commands.  God’s commandments are given to us for our provision and our protection, just like a parent’s rules for a teenager.  Like a teenager may balk at his rules at times, but later sees it was for his benefit, so it is with God’s parameters for us.  When we follow them, we find joy and freedom.

No other book or way of life will change our lives, make us wise and give us joy.  The Bible is the prescription for whatever ails our hearts.  Or, as David reflects in Psalm 119:93, “I will never forget Your precepts, for by them You have given me life.”

Are you in the Word?  Has it changed your life?  Or do you just own several copies of it with fancy covers and pens for them?  Just like your credit card: “Don’t leave home without it.”

 


This is my Fight Psalm

high wallFor it is You who lights my lamp; the Lord my God lightens my darkness.  For by You I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall.   Psalm 18:28-29

This Psalm of David was written after the Lord had rescued him from the hand of all his enemies, including Saul who was bent on trying to kill him.  David led Israel in battle many times, so picture this being the words of a military general who had survived several tours.  Or, picture the battle being the tests and trials we face on a continuous basis.

For it is God who lights my lamp and lightens my darkness.   Isaiah 50:10 admonishes, “Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of His servant?  Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.” Check out what happens if we don’t in verse 11: “Behold, all you who kindle a fire, who equip yourselves with burning torches!  Walk by the light of your fire, and by the torches that you have kindled!  This you have from My hand: you shall lie down in torment.”  Ouch!

The more happy companion verse would be Psalm 119:105, “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”  If you don’t know what to do and feel like you’re in the dark, consult God.   Pray and read the Bible.  Don’t run to friends or just stick with your own wisdom.  

For by You I can run against a troop and leap over a wall.  There are days that I feel that I’m getting attacked on every side.  I get people who threaten that if I don’t do what they want, they’ll go to Facebook.  I have to stand them down and call them out.  I gulp, I pray and I stand, not backing down.  By God I can stand against illogical, unreasonable parents.   I can find ideas where there aren’t any, because of God’s help.  

Do you ever feel like you are in over your head?  Maybe you are overwhelmed because the odds are stacked against you or there is someone opposing you that seems unbeatable.  With God, all things are possible.  We serve a God that is an odds beater, that champions the underdog and hears the cry of the lowly.  He equips us with strength (Psalm 18:32) and gives strength to the weary (Isaiah 40:29-31).  Call on God and trust Him with your challenges and obstacles.

God, I am calling out to You today.   Please give me the strength  to deal  with the problems I am facing.  I am asking You to help me.  Give me courage to do things Your way and not mine.  I will trust you with the consequences.  I don’t know which choices to make today, so would you direct my steps and give me the wisdom when it comes to taking action?  Your Word says that You give light in the darkness and that with Your help I can leap over a high wall.  Work and act today in Jesus’ name.  Amen!

 


To Him who sits on the throne

forever

The Lord sits enthroned forever; He has established His throne for justice, and He judges the world with righteousness; He judges the peoples with uprightness.  Psalm 9: 7-8

God sits on His throne forever.  Isaiah 40:22-23 declares, “It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers…He brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.”  Our God reigns.  Even when our world looks like it’s spinning out of control.  Take heart oh crazy world, God is still on His throne.

What does God do when He reigns?  He dispenses justice, just like a judge in our court system.  He judges.  Only God is righteous and just, not flawed or corrupted by anything or anyone.  And He is fair.  

God is judging now.  Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the living and active Word judges the thoughts and intentions of our hearts.  In Jeremiah 11:20 we find the statement that God tests the heart and the mind.  What does this mean?  God isn’t just waiting until some future date to weigh our actions.  He is doing it now.  It might not seem that the wrong is righted and that people get their just desserts, but God has a way of getting His point across.  That is why He tells us in Romans 12:19 not to avenge ourselves, because vengeance belongs to Him and He will repay.  Let Him do His job.

There will be a final judgment that no one will escape.  Hebrews 9:27 tells us,  “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.”  Matthew 12:36 reports, “On the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak.”  One more judgment verse for now, 2 Corinthians 5:10: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”

The good news for those of us who have claimed Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord is that He is our defense attorney.  Jesus is the substitutionary sacrifice for us.  In other words, we deserve the death penalty because of our sin condition.  But Jesus took it instead, giving us the ability to stand in judgment and not be condemned to an eternal destiny apart from God.

A final piece of good news if you think that you have been treated unfairly or not been rewarded as you deserve.  In 1 Corinthians 4:5 Paul wrote that God will “bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the hearts.  Then each one will receive his commendation from God.”

There is a God and He does sit on His throne.  He judges righteously and fairly.  He will right the wrong and dole out the proper punishments and rewards.  Therefore, as 2 Corinthians 5:9 “we make it our aim to please Him.”

 


God, my shield and the lifter of my head

shieldBut You, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.  I cried aloud to the Lord, and He answered me from His holy hill.  Psalm 3:3-4

Have you ever been so depressed or overcome that you can’t even lift your head?   Or have you felt so attacked by troubles, people and problems that you need a shield to protect you so you can stand?  Then this is good news for you to grab a hold of and to live by!

God is our shield.  In Genesis 15:1 God appeared to Abraham and told him, “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.”  So fear not–don’t be afraid or anxious.  In Psalm 5:12 David declared, “For You bless the righteous, O Lord; You cover him with favor as with a shield.”   Just like Joseph, David and Daniel had God’s hand of favor on them, we can be covered with God’s favor shield as we walk obediently with Him.  There are many verses that tell of the shielding benefit of God to rest on.

God is our glory.  If you are absorbed in weight lifting and stare at your muscles in the mirror while you’re working out, you might say that your glory is in your strength.  You take pride in how much you can lift, or in how trim or muscular that you are.  Jeremiah 9:23-24 commands, “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts, boast in this, that he understand and knows Me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth.”  We do not glory in our smarts, our strength or our money.  We glory in the love, justice and righteousness of God.  In God we trust.

God is the lifter of our heads.  There are those days when you can’t lift your head out of shame, depression, tiredness, or even an injury of some sort.  On those days, call out to the lifter of your head to do for you what you simply cannot do.  He will hear and He will act through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Philippians 4:13 tells us, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”  Ask for His strength and His grace when you need it.

I cried aloud to the Lord, and He answered me.  That’s what He does.  Jeremiah 33:3 promises, “Call to Me and I will answer you, and tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.”  Don’t wait until you’re in trouble to pray to God, pray early and pray often!

 


God’s prospering hand on you

tree plantedHe is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.  In all that he does, he prospers.  The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.  Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord knows the ways of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.  Psalm 1:3-6

There is a contrast between the one who daily seeks the Lord, meditating on His word.  It is the difference between a sturdy and strong tree vs. chaff that is blown away by the wind.  The strong and mighty tree yields fruit.  It doesn’t just eek by.   These verses tell us that whatever we undertake, we will prosper.  That’s another way of saying that we’re blessed.  

The wicked might prosper short term.  They might have a lot of money, nice houses and things look like they’re on the top of the world.  But this is not a prosperity that will continue beyond this life.  In eternity they will be condemned and they will perish.  It is easy to envy those people who seem to have it all, thinking that somehow we went wrong.  Oh no.  Filter it through the eyes of God, with His eternal lenses, and we see their end.  It’s not good.

Joseph, David and Daniel are guys who God had His hand on to prosper them.  In Genesis 39:2-4 tells us, “The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master.  When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and because his attendant.”  NIV  

When you flee wickedness and make faithful people your friends, get to know the Bible as your best friend, and then put its principles into practice, you will prosper.  No, you might not get rich or suddenly become a star of some sort.  But you will have God’s hand on you and your paths will be straight.  You will make decisions that turn out to be the right ones, avoid trouble, and doors will open up as people see that you are a good worker.  They might not even want to hire or advance you, but God makes it happen.

And in the end, you will have eternal life in Heaven.  That’s where our rewards come, our true blessings, our time to be with Jesus face to face forever.  But the end of the wicked is not good.  They will spend eternity in hell.  

 


Are you blessed?

blessed

Blessed is the one who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but delights in the law of the Lord, and on His law meditates day and night.  Psalm 1:1-2

Blessed.  Who doesn’t want to be blessed?   Is being blessed an ‘entitlement’?  Not necessarily.   David, the psalm writer, tells us how to be blessed.  There are things we need to do and ways to live our lives.  Would you describe your life as being blessed, or is it one big struggle?  If it’s a struggle, read on.  It might help you to figure out why ‘there’s always something.’

Is the one who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked.   It  has something to do with not living the same way that people who don’t know Jesus live.  It is also taking our cues from them, seeking advice from those who don’t love the Bible.  If we make our counselors and closest friends those who do not live according to God’s principles, we think and act like them, not like God.  Further, if we consistently watch TV shows and movies that are wicked, we are contradicting this spiritual principle.  Can you sing all of the old TV jingles, but not be able to quote a Bible verse from memory?  

Nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers.  We must hate sin.  In Psalm 139:21 David goes as far as to say, “Do I not hate those who hate You, O Lord?  And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?  One night I was out with friends at a pizza place.  The friends were not believers and the husband took great delight in telling his stories of their drunkenness and rebellion.  I had heard the stories many times, complete with the supporting cast.  In walked one of his old buddies and they began to recite the stories again.  I was laughing at the funny parts, until God spoke this verse straight into my mind.  

I froze, knowing that I was not hating those who shake their fist at Him.  To be honest, that was the last time I saw those friends.  I knew I needed to part ways with them because they were not desiring to change their lives, but were continuing this life of rebellion.  Do you shut the TV off when you know the show is promoting sin, or leaving a group of friends that have gone too far?  

But delights in the law of the Lord, and on His law meditates day and night.  This is the positive solution to changing our hearts and minds to be like Jesus.  We must have a daily habit of not just reading quickly through a chapter of the Bible, but studying, memorizing and meditating on it.  And then putting it into action.  The result?  We will be blessed.  That is a promise.  

*Image from La Casa youth

 


Finding God in the Middle of the ‘Why’

Job

I know that You can do all things, and no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.  Job 42:2

This is Job’s declaration at the end of not just a very bad day, but a bad stretch of years.  Job was God’s showcase to Satan that Job didn’t just serve God because of his riches and bountifully blessed life.  God wanted to prove to Satan that Job served and worshiped Him because of His character.  In a short stretch of time Job  his kids and his cattle all died.  Then he was afflicted with boils, and lots of them.

In the midst of this time of affliction, Job’s friends and wife accused Job of having some hidden sin to cause this.  God didn’t make sense to Job, but Job hung in there.  But he wanted answers to the questions of “why.”  God never told Job, but in the closing chapters of the book we see that God gave Job a view of God’s majesty in creation.

This verse was a part of Job’s response, saying in effect: “You are so big and I am so small.  Who am I to question such a magnificent and all-knowing God?”  There are times when God is silent in our lives and we may ask the same questions found in the book of Job.  Job never gave up on God or on searching for answers.  But in the middle of that quest, he didn’t get answers–He got God.

At a “Women of Faith” conference, Thelma Wells told of her daughter who was in her 30’s and single.  Her daughter told Thelma of her questioning of God and her distress over still being single.  She asked her mother to pray for her.  Thelma told her, “I’ll pray for you, but not for you to get married.  I will pray that you would fall madly in love with Jesus.”

Her daughter went away offended, thinking she already was in love with Jesus.  But her mother’s words spurred her on to spending large chunks of time with God over a period of months.  About a year later she came back to her mother and told her how God had totally changed her through that process and said, “Now I am madly in love with Jesus and it has changed me.”  She did get married not long after that.

Are you madly in love with Jesus?  Are you searching for the answer to something that has interrupted your life?  How can you find God in the middle of this quest, so that you can say with Job, “You’re God and I’m not.  Have Your way with me.  I trust You.”

*Photo from commons.wikimedia.org

 


God sees and He knows

God knows, God seesFor the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward Him.  2 Chronicles 16:9

The New International Version (NIV) translates the end of the verse to say God gives strong support to those who are fully committed to Him.  The New American Standard (NASB) translates it as ‘He strongly supports those whose heart is completely His.”  Now you may be able to get a better picture of what this verse is telling us.  God’s eyes  range all over the earth to see and to give aid to us, His children.

Hebrews 4:13 reads, “There is no creature hidden from the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account.”  You put 2 Chronicles 16:9 on one side of the see saw, and Hebrews 4:13 on the other and you have the good and bad side of God seeing everything.  In 2 Chronicles it rings like a promise and in Hebrews more like a warning.  

Let me take the promise side first.  Sometimes you may be struggling with something that no one knows about, or that you can’t put words to.  You might think you’re all alone.  But take heart, you’re not.  God sees and He knows.  Jeremy Camp has a song about this, entitled “He Knows.”  Here are some of the lyrics:

All the bitter weary ways; Endless striving day by day; You barely have the strength to pray; In the valley low; And how hard your fight has been; How deep the pain within; Wounds that no one else has seen; Hurts too much to show

He knows He knows; Every hurt and every sting; He has walked the suffering; Let your burdens come undone; Lift your eyes up to the one; Who knows He knows, He knows

That’s good news.  God sees that your heart is fully committed to Him and when you are crying out to Him for help and support.  And He sends help.  It may come in the form of another person, or simply the enabling power of the Holy Spirit to handle the burden.

The flip side of that is that God sees us when we think no one else does when we are trying to get away with something.  And we have to give an account of it before God.  Hmm.  What will that look like?  Will God review our lives like game film?  Will it just be with us, or will everyone see?  Either way, let it be a motivation to live carefully, not recklessly.

Remember that Bette Midler song that said, “God is watching us from a distance.”?  He watches us with a telescope, a periscope and a microscope.  He knows us inside and out.  And He strongly supports those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.God knows, God sees.jpg


Rush away, Holy Spirit

Rushing

Then the Spirit of the Lord will rush upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man.  1 Samuel 10: 6

This was promised to King Saul, when Samuel anointed him as king of Israel.  1 Samuel 10:9 goes on to record that when Saul turned his back to leave Samuel, “God gave him another heart.”  I love how the ESV talks about the work of the Holy Spirit as rushing upon the people that God was working in.  In Judges 13:25 it tells that “the Spirit of the Lord began to stir in Samson in Mahaneh-dan.”  Then in Judges 14:6 we see, “Then the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him (Samson) and although he had nothing in his hand, he tore the lion in pieces as one tears a young goat.”

The Holy Spirit lives inside of believers.  We are told in Ephesians 5:18 to be filled with the Spirit.  This is the same Holy Spirit that rushed on Saul and Samson and the same Holy Spirit that is described in Acts 2:2 as coming from heaven like a mighty rushing wind.  Can you picture the Spirit stirring in you and rushing upon you?

I have prayed for people often that the Holy Spirit would begin to stir in them, giving them an awakening of God in their lives.  I picture them beginning to think thoughts that are alien to their way of thinking and then wondering, “where did that come from?”  I picture them wanting to read the Bible where they never did before.  I also pray for them to have a desire to be about spiritual things and not just fleshly desires.  And then the rushing of the Spirit.  I pray that those who are gripped by a messed up past would be gripped by something other than their dysfunction–the power of the Spirit to overcome the former driving passions to a holy one.

When the Holy Spirit rushes on us, He changes us in the snap of a finger.  It’s a change maybe we had been trying to accomplish on our own for years.  Rush away Holy Spirit.  Shorten the time gap of change.  

I pray that the Holy Spirit would rush on me, turning me into a different person.  When we place our faith in the work of Jesus, calling on God to save us and to make us His child, that’s what happens.  God replaces our sinful, dirty and depraved hearts with His heart of righteousness.  We now have the ability to walk away from a fight, the power to say no to sin and the desire to serve God and others instead of being devoured with selfish ambitions.

It is a process that takes place when we are saved and it keeps taking place as we feed on the words of the Bible, invite the renewing work of the Holy Spirit into our lives, and take steps of obedience as God leads us into this new life.  Rush away Holy Spirit.