Thursday, April 29, 2010

Those Over-Used Verses

If you are like me, sometimes you'll receive that birthday card that has a verse in it... and quite honestly, just ignore it because you know what it says. I know that's really a dumb thing to do in that it is probably the most important part of the card, but I think it would be ignorant to assume that most of us actually take the time to look up what the verse says. I generally do if I don't know it, but if I do know it... I often don't even think about it. Lately, I have been trying to break that habit by reading passages that I "know so well" that I tend to ignore. Proverbs 3:5-6 is probably the most common graduation verse... and it's graduation time, so I figured I'd take a look at Proverbs 3:1-7.
My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments; for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good repute In the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil.

What a great portion of scripture! Think of what you have learned (the good things that is)... the things you learn from the Word, the things you learn from your parents... from your pastor. Don't forget those! Keep them at the forefront of your mind. Apply them to your everyday life. Make them a reality in your heart. It will give you a good reputation first and foremost, in the sight of God, and secondly, in the sight of man. Remember how a good name is to be chosen over gold and silver? Ever wondered how to have a "good name"? Read those instructions again! Don't forget what He has taught you! Let Him mold you from the inside out through the instruction He gives us through the Word. Trust in the Lord with all your heart... everything within us must be continually pointing us to trust Him more fully. He is the only One that we can trust fully. Do not lean on your own understanding... we are prone to live out our sinful/selfish desires. We need to be constantly reminded just how sinful we are--desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9)! Are we going to put our trust in a desperately wicked heart, or are we going to trust the Lord? In all your ways acknowledge Him... everything we do must have Christ at the center. Think of the last time you consciously sinned... did you acknowledge Him as your judge? Your ruler? Your Lord? Your Savior? Your Redeemer? etc. right as you were sinning? I don't think so! We must keep Him at the center of our lives... we would avoid such a huge amount of harm. Our path would be straight! If we are finding ourselves confused by the path He is taking us on, perhaps we aren't acknowledging Him in all our ways! Again, we must humble ourselves realizing that the only wisdom we have comes from God. We must fear Him. We must turn from evil!

May I never grow cold to the truths of scripture no matter how many times I've read it! I need Him to pour out His grace and renew my Spirit with a stronger desire to listen to the truths of His Word... over and over again. Remember the beginning of Proverbs 3? We are commanded to not forget what we have learned. It doesn't matter how many times we've heard it. Let's dedicate ourselves to continually learning from Him so that we are not forgetful hearers. We must be doers of the Word!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

When He Blesses

This week has been a full one... preparing to preach in another week or so... applying for jobs... following up with previous job applications... etc. To be honest, today didn't feel that profitable. I felt like I wasted hours looking for jobs that were not there. I wanted to get the lawn mowed, but it was raining. I'm sure I could have used my time a bit better today. I think I spent too much time "thinking" and not enough time "doing". Had a great time in the Word throughout the day today, but found myself frustrated by the lack of things that I actually got done. I'm thankful that His mercies are new every morning.

I was reading in Deuteronomy 6 earlier and verses 5 through 12 really caught my attention.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Then it shall come about when the Lord your God brings you into the land which He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you, great and splendid cities which you did not build, and houses full of all good things which you did not fill, and hewn cisterns which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant, and you eat and are satisfied, then watch yourself, that you do not forget the Lord who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

This command to love God with all our heart, soul, and might is well known. It's simple and straight forward, but is it reality? Are we letting those words slip by our minds and leaving them on the "to do someday" list, or are we striving to do it now. This command is to be central to everything we do. We are commanded to teach this command diligently to those we are responsible for. We ought to be considering this when we are hanging out at home, when we are in the car or walking around, when we go to bed and when we wake up. This command is to be so central to our daily living that we post it places where we will see it all the time. Do you know why it is so important? When He blesses us beyond what we can imagine, we naturally forget Him. We take the credit for the blessings... we love the creation rather than the creator... we forsake Him. God commands us to continually put reminders in front of us to love God with absolutely everything in us so that we live in a Christ-centered manner regardless of how much He blesses us. I am confident that this is one of the lessons He wants me to learn before He blesses me with a new job. I must love Him with with all my heart... no more battles between the things of this world and Him... He must win in my heart! With all my soul... every thought, attitude, action must be a reflection of my love for Him. With all my might... absolutely every ounce of strength I have must be used to love Him. I can live daily life, doing the normal daily tasks and still love Him in this way. It is completely do-able... He commands it! By His grace, I will love Him with all that is within me.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Commitment

The last week has been an incredible one. The Lord has blessed me with getting to see many good friends that I hadn't seen in quite a while. It was a week that was filled with exhaustion, but also one filled with God's blessing. Time in the Word has been a continual refreshment to my soul. I was reading earlier this week in Psalm 101.
I will sing of lovingkindness and justice, to You, O Lord, I will sing praises. I will give heed to the blameless way when will You come to me? I will walk within my house in the integrity of my heart. I will set no worthless thing before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not fasten its grip on me. A perverse heart shall depart from me; I will know no evil. Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will destroy; no one who has a haughty look and an arrogant heart will I endure. My eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me; he who walks in a blameless way is the one who will minister to me. He who practices deceit shall not dwell within my house; he who speaks falsehood shall not maintain his position before me. Every morning I will destroy all the wicked of the land, So as to cut off from the city of the Lord all those who do iniquity.

I love David's commitment to the Lord in this Psalm. Walking with integrity "within my house"... in private, when no one else is around to see... that is true character... that is who I am. The reality is that only God sees those things, but He does promise that our sin will find us out. Setting no worthless thing before my eyes... this is far beyond our normal standard of "guarding our eyes"... this is taking it to the extent of not even thinking about worthless things. Do I want to fill my mind with things that don't matter for eternity? My mind is a gift from Him! What goes in comes out. Am I thinking about worthless things? Am I listening to worthless things? Am I looking at worthless things? How about the concept of knowing no evil? Am I filling my mind with things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, etc.? How about the concept of having the blameless be the ones ministering to us? Who do I hang out with? Are they blameless before Him? Are they ministering to me or are they dragging me down? Do I find myself in a deeper relationship with Him because of their impact on my life or am I struggling to survive when I am with them? Are they faithful and obedient to His ways? Do they help me make excuses or do they challenge me to get up off the ground and pursue Him with my whole heart? Am I going as far as to cleanse myself of all wicked influences in my life? I'm not saying that we ought to not minister to anyone, but as far as the people I am getting council from... are they all blameless before Him? It is hard enough to live a life of faithful commitment to Him without the negative influences. We must turn fully to Him and let His people minister to us as we minister back to them.

God, give me wisdom in choosing who I go to for support and encouragement. Build strong, God-fearing people as a fortress around me so that when I fall, they pick me up. Give me strength to reject all forms of evil. Help me not to waste my life with the worthless things that this world is filled with. Strip away anyone or anything in my life that is not of You. Fill my heart with desires for You and You alone. Guard my eyes, my ears, my mind, my heart. Make me into a strong man who is able to be a source of stability and strength for those that are struggling. Grant me humility to love as You love. Give me compassion for the hurting. Give me wisdom for encouraging. Make me into who You want me to be no matter what it takes.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Why Do I Worry?

As some of you know, it's been hard for us financially in recent times. Basically, we had two very large bills due next month. Quite honestly, I didn't see where it would come from. I had an interview this morning 1.5 hrs away (yet another blessing)... so I was praying on the way there. I was praying through the following from Matthew 6:
For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? "Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?

After praying through these things, I was asking Him about those that are starving to death... realizing that we have so much more than them. I was asking Him if He was truly glorified through the trials of His children... and asking Him why it wouldn't glorify Him even more for Him to provide for their needs just as He promised.

I got home from the interview and mom broke the news to me that she had received a letter in the mail and after calling about it... turned out that she and my sister had a large sum of money (basically matching the amount of the two bills) that they hadn't claimed for a minor car accident back in 2006. God has once again proven His faithfulness far beyond what I can imagine.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Study and Delight in His Works

I have been working on applying for jobs and taking an exam for one of the places I applied to. It's been a busy but good week. The Lord has continually encouraged and upheld me during this time of difficulty. He puts just the right people in my life at just the right time... opens up another place to apply for... speaks to me through His Word... etc. I am so thankful for His work in my heart. He is so good and faithful! I was reading in the Psalms this evening and read Psalm 111.
Praise the Lord! I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart, In the company of the upright and in the assembly. Great are the works of the Lord; they are studied by all who delight in them. Splendid and majestic is His work, And His righteousness endures forever. He has made His wonders to be remembered; The Lord is gracious and compassionate. He has given food to those who fear Him; He will remember His covenant forever. He has made known to His people the power of His works, In giving them the heritage of the nations. The works of His hands are truth and justice; All His precepts are sure. They are upheld forever and ever; They are performed in truth and uprightness. He has sent redemption to His people; He has ordained His covenant forever; Holy and awesome is His name. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever.

Several things jumped out at me: giving thanks with all my heart, surrounding myself with the upright, studying His great works and delighting in them, the fact that He does these amazing things for us to remember them, he will not let those that fear Him go without anything they need, fear of Him is the beginning of wisdom, and true understanding is followed with complete obedience to His ways.

So many things to think through, but studying and delighting in His works is something that I really need to do more of. He has done so many incredible things and yet I am so prone to forget those things... to take them for granted because He is God and can do whatever He wants. While that is true, it should give me all the more reason to study His works... to try to understand His purpose behind what He is doing... to take the time to truly appreciate what He has done. The ultimate example of this is His work on the cross. In many ways the cross is not a delightful object. It is an object that reminds us of pain and grief... one that reminds us of Christ's ultimate sacrifice because of our sin. It is the true image of the consequence of our sin--not a delightful thing. Yet, the complete forgiveness that comes only through Christ's death and resurrection is the most delightful thing that mankind has ever known. To stand before the Holy Judge as completely righteous because His righteousness is credited to my account and my sin credited to His... what a gift! May His gift never grow so old that it ceases to bring tears to my eyes. Oh, to see my name written in the wounds, for through Your suffering I am free. Death is crushed to death; life is mine to live, Won through Your selfless love. This, the pow'r of the cross: Christ became sin for us; took the blame, bore the wrath--we stand forgiven at the cross. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!