What Are We Learning from God?

Teach me to do thy will; for thou are my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness.” Psalm 143.10

What a wonderful way to start the day: “Teach me to do thy will; for thou are my God … ” This is not just a good word for the psalmist. It is good for you and me too. How do we go about doing the will of God? The starting place is His Word. The psalmist did not have the benefit of the whole of Scripture that we have now. We have the ability and the privilege of studying God’s Word to learn about Him and what He wants from His children. I think for most of us, our struggle is determining in our hearts to DO what we already know God wants. We gain nothing by trying to bargain with God. On the contrary, we find our greatest peace in doing what we already know to do. Once we make the determination that God is OUR God, the rest of life wants to fall into place and follow Him.

This phrase: “thy spirit is good … ” is more than simply bragging on God. The psalmist knows, and we must know too, that God ALWAYS has the psalmist’s best interests at heart (and that is true for us as well).

What does this last phrase mean to us? “lead me into the land of uprightness.” One translation reads: “Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground.” The psalmist’s heart desire is to walk in a way that will glorify his God. You and I need to come to this place in our lives as well. Gone are the days when we should choose to live selfishly. OUR heart cry must be that God would guide us in a way that will cause our lives to bring glory to Him. Once again, this is not a once-for-all decision. It is something that we must choose EVERY DAY – and sometimes more frequently than that. These are just my thoughts …

 

When Waiting Pays Off!

I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait and in his word do I hope.” Psalm 130.5

Waiting is one of the most difficult things that any of us do. We wait on our spouse, or our children, or the order at the fast food restaurant, etc. I find one of my most difficult waiting times is when I am stopped at a traffic light and it seems like I need to shave when it turns green – I have been there so long.

But what we are looking at here is a totally different “wait”. Sometimes in our haste to “do what’s right” we get ahead of God. We may forget that God does not work on the clock the way we do. His view of things is from eternity past, to the present, and into the future with no end in sight. So waiting for the Lord to give us the next step must be more than an exercise in patience. It must be our daily routine.

As if the phrase “I wait for the LORD” wasn’t enough, the psalmist adds: “my soul doth wait … ” indicating that in his inner most being he has made the conscious decision to wait on the Lord. That may not seem like a big deal, but I can’t remember the number of times I have heard someone say, “the Lord told me to do it,” and whatever “it” was turned out to be the total opposite of what God had already told us in His Word.

Finally, the reason for waiting on the Lord is given in this last phrase: “in his word do I hope.” Remember that the word hope here does not mean that there is a possibility that something WON’T happen. Quite the opposite – it means that whatever God says WILL happen is as good as already done. That, my friends, is genuine hope. Let’s bank on that today. Just my thoughts …

God Loves ALL the World!

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3.9

If there was ever any question about God’s heart when He sacrificed His Son on the cross, it is surely answered here. How can anyone reach the conclusion that Christ died for a select few when Peter states so clearly that God is “not willing that any should perish … ”? Perhaps we should ask ourselves if WE really believe that Christ died for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2.2: “And he (Christ) is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”).

Peter reminds us that God “is longsuffering to usward … ” If any one of the apostles understood the longsuffering heart of God, it was Peter. When we consider the various events in Peter’s life that Christ went through with him and saw him recover, we can grasp something of Peter’s heart. I am reminded of Jesus’ words to Peter in John 21 when He asked Peter, “do you love me?” and Peter said, “Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee.

The last phrase in the verse above is worth considering: “all should come to repentance.” Who is the “all” here? It is the world for whom Christ died. The tragic thing today is that there are so many in our world that have never heard the name of Christ. They don’t even know that God has a Son and that He died for their sins. Let me ask a question that I have asked before in previous blogs. Is it God’s fault that so many in the world have never the message or is it the fault of the local New Testament church who has failed to send missionaries to remote villages and lands where no white man has ever been seen? I realize the church cannot send someone until they have SURRENDERED all to Christ and have been trained to go. But, an honest question here, are our churches asking for people to surrender – teens, college students, young couples, you name it. Could it be that WE need to pray for God to call some and if He calls US, will we go? Just my thoughts …

Why Can’t I Do What I Want?

For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. 14For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. ” Galatians 5.13-14

What is Paul talking about here when he says, “ye have been called unto liberty … ”? This is a reference to the truth that they now have liberty under grace (not under law) to live for God. It is possible for some people to mistake liberty for license. If they have the liberty to do something, then that gives them a license to do whatever they want. Paul calls that kind of thinking into check in this verse: “only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh … ” Our flesh has a tendency to want to get even with others who hurt us. So we rationalize our behavior by thinking, “Hey, I am going to heaven no matter what. So I can say and do what I want. Right?” Wrong! “, but by love serve one another.” That throws a monkey wrench into things.

Now Paul expands our thinking on this matter: “14For all the law is fulfilled in one word … ” OK, what is that word Paul? Ready? “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” That is what liberty under grace allows us to do. They may not deserve love, but then neither did we. They may not deserve grace, but then neither did we. You don’t get up in the morning, go into the bathroom, and start yelling at the face in the mirror. And why not? You are looking at yourself. Can you then treat your neighbor with that same kindness? Two times in these two verses Paul uses this word love. (1) “by love serve one another” and (2) “love thy neighbor as thyself.” This is not a warm fuzzy something that isn’t real. It is the unconditional love Christ has shown to us. I’d say we have a pretty big job ahead of us. Just my thoughts …

Words MEAN Something!

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” 1 Corinthians 13.1

You know when you meet some people, the way they talk is so flowery and syrupy that you wonder, “Are they for real?” And then there are others who punctuate everything with a scripture verse because they want you to know they are “spiritual.” I think Paul puts his finger on the pulse of the way people talk with the first phrase of this verse: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels … ” Now I don’t know what an angel sounds like when he speaks, but all of us pretty well recognize the sound of men’s and women’s voices.

What is Paul saying? He tells us that there is more to living for God than just talking a good fight. Armchair generals are a dime a dozen. They can tell everybody else how to fight a battle but when it comes down to them, it is a different story. The next phrase brings things into focus a little better: “and have not charity … ” The word charity here means love – agape love – unconditional love – the kind that Jesus displayed while He was here on earth. If all I can do is speak about a person’s need but I am unable to come alongside them and help them by loving them through the crisis, I am not much use to the one who is struggling.

Paul describes them in very graphic terms: “I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” Now there is a place for sounding brass and a tinkling symbol, but that place is NOT when I am standing alongside a brother or sister in Christ who needs me to reach out to them with loving kindness and do all I can to help them work through whatever they are facing. Words mean something. I want the words I say to be spoken with love and with compassion. And when others speak to me, I need to hear the same. Just my thoughts …

Do Our Walk and Our Talk Match?

The just man walketh in his integrity: his children are blessed after him.” Proverbs 20.7

In the world of politics many public servants are concerned about the legacy they will leave behind as a result of their time in a public office. But I wonder if we who are believers are concerned about the legacy we will leave behind as a result of being a part of the kingdom of God.

Solomon speaks here about “The just man … “ That is a reference to the lifestyle we choose to live. This reference is to a father and his children, but I believe we can make a broader application without doing injustice to this verse. Would you agree that none of us knows who is watching us and/or attempting to model the life that we are living? We don’t live on an island where we are the only person there. We live in the midst of a culture where “the just man” is the exception and not the rule.

What does it mean to walk in integrity? Reputation is what people THINK we are. Integrity is what we are in the dark when no one is watching. I want my life to be one of integrity. Does that mean I have not made mistakes? Absolutely not! Does that mean I will not make misstates in the future? Absolutely not! But what it does mean is that I want my attitude, my purpose, and my behavior each day to be above reproach.

“ … his children are blessed after him.” You and I know that when our children reach a certain age they want to begin making their own decisions, and that is as it should be. Solomon’s conclusion here is that when children have a father who is a man of integrity, and they choose to identify with his integrity, they will be blessed. As God’s children, we are called upon to know what our Heavenly Father says (as in read the Book), and then to live a life that God will choose to bless. Just my thoughts …

Build a Bridge – Not a Wall!

Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. 2Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6.1-2

There is not anyone reading this who has not or will not “be overtaken in a fault … ” So all of us need the counsel that Paul offers here to the Galatian believers. The struggles that each believer will go through in his walk with the Lord reminds each of us that we NEED each other. There are times when we are the spiritual one and we can help another believer, and then there are times when we are the one who needs to be restored so we reach out to another brother or sister in Christ for help. We need to help restore another in a spirit of meekness, and we need to seek the help of another in that same spirit.

Verse 2 fills in the empty spaces for us. Let’s take a look: “2Bear ye one another’s burdens … ” I don’t think we need to go around prying into other believer’s spiritual walk. But I do think that if sense someone needs an encouraging word or helping hand, we make ourselves available. How do we do that? (1) We can begin by asking if there is something we can pray with them about. If they say, “no” then we are finished at this time. If they say, “yes”, take time to write down their need, burden, or request and do what you promised to do – pray. (2) You may ask if they would like to meet some where to just talk. It can be over coffee, a meal, or just at a place not in the church. (3) Be sure to check back with them and see how they are doing. They will know that you are serious about helping bear their burdens.

Why would we go to all this trouble? Here’s the answer: “and so fulfill the law of Christ.” If Christ were here, that is what He would do. We represent Him down here on this earth. We are His eyes, His ears, His feet, and His hands. As Sam Shoemaker said, “Let’s wear (him) like a suit of clothes.” I just want to be available to others if they need someone. Dr. Bob Jones Sr. said on repeated occasions: “The greatest ability is availability”. Just my thoughts …

It’s Not That Hard!

Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart.” Psalm 119.2

Most of us already know that Psalm 119 is a long Psalm – 176 verses. It is interesting to me to note that the psalmist uses the first two verses to remind us of these simple truths: “Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD.” (v. 1) The first verse tells us that we are blessed when we “walk in the law of the LORD.” V. 2 tells us that we are blessed when we “seek him with the whole heart.

When Psalm 119 was written, very little of the Old Testament was in written form. So when the author here writes: “Blessed are they that keep his testimonies … ”, he was confident his readers would know what he meant. What does it mean for us to “keep his testimonies”? I will come back to that question in a moment. One of the great tragedies today is that so many read the Bible without ever stopping to ask how it applies to them. In my mind, that is unconscionable. Why would we read something if we never have any intention of applying it to our lives?

The Word of God is not simply a book to be read, but it is a book to be lived. If I am going to live something that I am told, I must understand enough of it to be able to apply it. Now back to my question above: “what does it mean for us to keep his testimonies”? First, we must begin by READING God’s Book. It seems that I mention that a lot in my blogs, but it is a foundational truth. God’s testimonies are contained in His Book. Secondly, we must understand what God is saying to us, so that we can begin to apply what we are learning. Knowledge without application is knowing something you never intend to us. If you are a careful reader of the Bible you already know that some things are written FOR us and some things are written TO us.

My problem has never been knowing what to do, but doing what I already know God wants me to do. I suspect that is the problem for most of us. So when you and I read God’s Word, let’s take time to ask the Holy Spirit, “What is in this for me?” and then give Him time to show us. Just my thoughts …

 

Whose Power Controls You?

For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead. 15And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him who died for them, and rose again.” 2 Corinthians 5.14-15

When I think about the one who is writing these words, I am brought face-to-face with a man who had an iron will and a determination not seen in many people. So when Paul says, “the love of Christ constraineth us … ”, we realize that he has come face-to-face with Someone who has turned his life completely around. Think about this word “constrain”. It means “to compel or force someone) toward a particular course of action.” Look at this powerful phrase one more time: “the love of Christ constraineth us … ” He is not saying that his love for Christ constrains him, but Christ’s love FOR him constrains him.

I wonder if you and I really understand the way Paul did the love Christ has for His children? When we BEGIN to understand Christ’s love for us, it is such an overwhelming truth that literally “constrains” us to do what we would never do on our own. Paul’s realization “then were all dead … ” changed the entire focus of his life and ministry. Look at the conclusion that Paul draws: “he Christ) died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him who died for them, and rose again.

Are you and I living for Christ, or are we all wrapped up in living unto ourselves? My challenge to you and me today is that we take an in depth look at how we are living and seek to determine if we are living for ourselves or for the Christ who died for us? Once we know that, the Holy Spirit will show us THE NEXT STEP we need to take to join Paul is going all in for Christ. Just my thoughts …

Can We Trust the Heart?

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? 10I the LORD search the heat, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings ” Jeremiah 17.9-10

I don’t think any of us disagree with v. 9. God is simply speaking truth here and we need to recognize the truthfulness as it relates to our own hearts. V. 9 sets up the dramatic contrast between “the wicked heart” and “I the LORD search the heart … ” With the realization that the Lord searches our hearts, we find powerful motivation to yield control of our hearts to the Lord. Most of our heart-felt decisions, when they are made without the Lord’s guidance, merely give way to what the flesh wants, not what God wants. There is NEVER a good time to project ourselves ahead of God by thinking WE know what is best.

The verse continues: “I try the reins … ” Another translations reads like this: “I test the mind … ” God not only works with the heart, He also tests our mind to see if we are filtering our thoughts through what the flesh wants or what the Spirit wants. Don’t miss this next phrase: “to give every man according to his ways … ” If I demand to have my own way, then God will give me what MY ways long for. Here is expressed the maxim: “You reap what you sow.” Far too many times I fear that God’s people go about sowing their wild oats and the pray for a crop failure.

to give every man according to … the fruit of his doings.” The fruit of our lives reflects what we hold dear. God WILL give the fruit of our doings, but I am not certain that any of us really want that. How much better would our lives be if we longed for the fruit of the Spirit? “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith 23Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” How about we say to God today, “I’m all in! Take these broken pieces of my life and do with them something that will bring glory and honor to you.” Just my thoughts …