Spontaneous Gifts

30 06 2012

Psalms 119:108 O accept the freewill offerings of my mouth, O LORD, And teach me Your ordinances.

  •  Accept:  to be pleased with
  •  Freewill offerings:  a spontaneous gift (Exodus 35:29), a voluntary sacrifice (Leviticus 22:23; Ezra 3:5), as opposed to one in consequence of a vow, or in payment for some offence.

1Timothy 4:12 Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe. 

What do the things that come from my mouth spontaneously say about my belief system?  Would God be pleased to see that they are a sweet example of a person who loves Him?  Too often we think that being an example is about not swearing or not saying anything inappropriate, but what about grumbling?  Whining?  Complaining?  Gossiping?  Those are the things that seem to come out of nowhere, and give a bad reflection of my faith.

The psalmist wanted the Lord to be pleased with all the things that came out of his mouth so he voluntarily offered praises to Him, giving his heart to receive all that came from His mouth.  It is like a small child who repeats what he hears.  The more we spend time with the Lord, the more we will automatically repeat what we hear.  Relationship, not religion.  Religion says “I must”, while relationship says, “I want to”; religion says “I know”, while relationship says, “I need You to teach me.” Religion says “I will” and relationship says, “I am (because He is).”

 (Hebrews 13:15-16) Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. 

Lord, be pleased with all the things that come out of my mouth.  May I proclaim Your goodness and faithfulness, and may I shout with joy because of Your unfailing love.  Keep me close so that I will repeat what I have heard from You, and only that.   “If Thou wilt teach me, I will teach others, as I have already done; and so Thou shalt have glory, and others benefit by it.” (Matthew Poole)


More Intense Battles Require a Greater Faith

29 06 2012

Psalms 119:107 I am exceedingly afflicted; Revive me, O LORD, according to Your word.

  •  Exceedingly:  vehemently; wholly; with great intensity
  • Afflicted:  to depress, bring low, humble
  • Revive:  Bring back to life

More than halfway through this long psalm, and troubles have not left; in fact, they have brought the psalmist all the more low.  He once again cries out for the Lord to resuscitate him according to His word.

 Our service of the Lord does not screen us from trial, but rather secures it for us. The Psalmist was a consecrated man, and yet a chastened man; nor were his chastisements light; for it seemed as if the more he was obedient the more he was afflicted. He evidently felt the rod to be cutting deep, and this he pleads before the Lord. He speaks not by way of murmuring, but by way of pleading; from the very much affliction he argues for very much quickening. — C. H. Spurgeon

(1 Peter 4:1-2, 12-19; 5:6-10) Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God… Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? AND IF IT IS WITH DIFFICULTY THAT THE RIGHTEOUS IS SAVED, WHAT WILL BECOME OF THE GODLESS MAN AND THE SINNER? Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right…  Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.  Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. 

The psalmist does not wail to know why he is suffering under such a weight.  He does not murmur and whine about it.  He has already seen that God is good and does good, even in affliction.  He has not gone back on his commitment to trust His Sovereign.  Instead he casts himself at the feet of the One who Cares for him, trusting His ability to revive him anew.

 (Isaiah 42:1-13) “Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations. “He will not cry out or raise His voice, Nor make His voice heard in the street. “A bruised reed He will not break And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish; He will faithfully bring forth justice. “He will not be disheartened or crushed Until He has established justice in the earth; And the coastlands will wait expectantly for His law.” Thus says God the LORD, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread out the earth and its offspring, Who gives breath to the people on it And spirit to those who walk in it, “I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I will also hold you by the hand and watch over you, And I will appoint you as a covenant to the people, As a light to the nations, To open blind eyes, To bring out prisoners from the dungeon And those who dwell in darkness from the prison. “I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, Nor My praise to graven images. “Behold, the former things have come to pass, Now I declare new things; Before they spring forth I proclaim them to you.” Sing to the LORD a new song, Sing His praise from the end of the earth! You who go down to the sea, and all that is in it. You islands, and those who dwell on them. Let the wilderness and its cities lift up their voices, The settlements where Kedar inhabits. Let the inhabitants of Sela sing aloud, Let them shout for joy from the tops of the mountains. Let them give glory to the LORD And declare His praise in the coastlands. The LORD will go forth like a warrior, He will arouse His zeal like a man of war. He will utter a shout, yes, He will raise a war cry. He will prevail against His enemies. 

It all comes back to faith.  Repeated trials and difficulties test our faith.  If it is firmly established in who God is and in His faithfulness, that faith does not fail no matter how often it finds itself in an intense battle.  The psalmist could persevere because He believed God was a God to be trusted in all things, at all times, and with everything.

 Our greatest need in times of trouble is more spiritual life. Afflictions will be a gain to us if they are sanctified to our more thorough arousing and enlivening.  We have a promise that it shall be so, for the psalmist says, “according unto thy word.” — C. H. Spurgeon

What is it that is intensely bringing you low?  Is it work issues?  Relational issues?  Health issues?  Sin?  Temptation?  All of these?

And what are you doing about it?  Are you self-medicating?  Are you ignoring it?  Are you trying to fix it?  Are you trying to find someone else to fix it?  Are you getting angry?  Bitter?  All of these?

My personal goal is to think of the things that bring me intensely low as opportunities to practice the things the Lord is teaching me.  Repetition is the mother of all learning.  I’m not all that shot up about the whole process of humbling, but I know that when it has its perfect work, that it is a good thing.  I am making ever effort to choose to NOT try to get up, but to raise my eyes, heart and hands to the One who is a shield about me, my glory and the lifter of my head (Psalm 3:3).  Did I mention it was a process?  I try and fail, and the Lord does His work, and I get a tad farther in the process by His grace and spirit.  Then I try and fail, and the Lord does His work, and I get a tad farther in the process by His grace and spirit.   Then I try and fail… and, well, you get the idea.  It is a process and God is faithful to complete it.  Our job is just to trust in Him.

 (Psalms 145:1-21)  I will extol You, my God, O King, And I will bless Your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless You, And I will praise Your name forever and ever. Great is the LORD, and highly to be praised, And His greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall praise Your works to another, And shall declare Your mighty acts. On the glorious splendor of Your majesty And on Your wonderful works, I will meditate. Men shall speak of the power of Your awesome acts, And I will tell of Your greatness. They shall eagerly utter the memory of Your abundant goodness And will shout joyfully of Your righteousness. The LORD is gracious and merciful; Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness. The LORD is good to all, And His mercies are over all His works. All Your works shall give thanks to You, O LORD, And Your godly ones shall bless You. They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom And talk of Your power; To make known to the sons of men Your mighty acts And the glory of the majesty of Your kingdom. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And Your dominion endures throughout all generations. The LORD sustains all who fall And raises up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to You, And You give them their food in due time. You open Your hand And satisfy the desire of every living thing. The LORD is righteous in all His ways And kind in all His deeds. The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He will also hear their cry and will save them. The LORD keeps all who love Him, But all the wicked He will destroy. My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, And all flesh will bless His holy name forever and ever. 

Lord, when I am intensely brought low by anything, revive me according to Your word.  Remind me of Your faithful promises in it.  Remind me of all the ways that You have worked on my behalf in the past.  Remind me of Your love and compassion.  Remind me of Your great grace.  Remind me to keep my eyes focused on You, to call out to You alone, and to love and fear You at all times.  With my mouth I will speak praises and thanksgiving and with my life I will bless you and please you!  I trust You, O Lord.

Pledge Confirmed

28 06 2012

Psalms 119:106 I have sworn and I will confirm it, That I will keep Your righteous ordinances.

The psalmist remembers the allegiance he gave to the Lord (see verses 8 and 10) and he once more confirms it.  As a child, we used to stand and say the Pledge of Allegiance every morning.  It was a solemn reminder that my loyalty and commitment to my country was important and necessary.  How much more is this true of our steadfast dedication to fidelity unto the Lord?

The psalmist has battled long and hard; he has experienced darkness, persecution and loneliness.  But he has also experienced the love, grace, mercy and faithfulness of his sovereign Lord.  At the end of the day, he can say “It is well with my soul and I will keep on following my God where ever He should lead.”

 It Is Well by Horatio G. Stafford

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

Faith puts no trust in itself, but in the One who is worthy.  A pledge confirmed is a resolve to stand in faith and, with that, God is pleased to reward.

Oh, Lord, to You do I swear my allegiance with cords of love and do hereby confirm, by Your grace, my desire to never to turn from it.  I choose to trust You and not what I see or feel.  Thank You for being the firm anchor upon which I can hold and know that I will not be moved so that even when the sea billows roll, all will be well with my soul.

Never in the Dark

27 06 2012

Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Psalms 119:105 Nun. Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.

The lamps used by the psalmist were not large, nor were they particularly bright.  Olive oil (representative of the Holy Spirit) was typically the fuel used to keep the wick burning.  They would have illuminated just enough to see where their feet needed to go, but not much beyond it.  The Word of God, indeed, casts light enough for each step of a believer’s life.  The psalmist says it is a “lamp for MY feet and a light for MY path;” therefore it is personal and intimate.  A lamp must be both carried and maintained to be of any use to the owner.  As believers, we have a responsibility to take daily care in making sure that our lamps are full of oil and lit before darkness falls.  This implies a daily relationship with the Holy Spirit through prayer, worship and obedience.

  •  (Ephesians 5:7-14) Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. For this reason it says, “Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you.”
  •  Philippians 2:14-16  Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life…
  •  2 Peter 1:19  So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.

I would like to suggest that believers who take serious their need to carry their lamps openly as they walk also shine God’s light upon others who might be having a more difficult time doing so.  The enemy has blinded the minds of unbelievers so that they cannot see the truth of their salvation shining (2 Corinthians 4:4) but our God has the ability to shine so bright through His earthen lamps (us) that it pierces even the darkness of unbelievers (2 Corinthians 4:6-7).  If we put one lamp in a dark room, it brings some light; but with enough lamps in a room darkness has no place to hide.

 (Matthew 5:14-16) You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

The psalmist did not leave the imagery at a personal lamp that needs to be carried and maintained; he also says that God’s Word provides light for his path.  The Hebrew word for light refers light that comes primarily from heavenly bodies but also for light itself.  The pillar of fire in Exodus (13:21) was a light for the Israelites.  God is clothed with light (Psalm 104:2) and to walk in the light means to live by God’s known standards (Isaiah 2:5).  Eventually, we will have no need for the light of the sun or moon because God Himself will be the only light necessary for us.

 (Revelation 21:23-24) And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. 

The Word of God is a tangible and personal source of light that each one of us can carry with us to illuminate our way.  But it is a light, distinct and separate from the need for our maintenance or attention.  It illumines our both our present darkness and the shadowy future to come.  It surrounds us, giving us comfort, protection, and hope beyond our ability.  I believe that when we read God’s Word diligently, it is something tangible and consciously useful for that moment by moment walk, but it also is written upon our hearts and minds in such a way that it brightens and shines in ways that we may not even consciously be aware until we look back upon a dark time and see that it was lit by His Truth and Grace all along the way after all.

Psalm 18:28 For You light my lamp; The LORD my God illumines my darkness.

O Lord, send out Your light and Your truth, let them lead me; Let them bring me to Your holy hill And to Your dwelling places. (Psalm 43:3)

No Pet Lies

26 06 2012

Psalms 119:104 From Your precepts I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way.

  •  Precepts:  refers to something entrusted to man; mandates for which man is responsible
  • Understanding:  to separate mentally; to distinguish
  • Hate:  personally detest
  • False:  a lie; a sham; deceit
  • Way:  A well trodden path

 We are wise if we obey and we grow wise by obeying! — C. H. Spurgeon

The psalmist’s ability to separate things mentally using the principles God entrusted to him brought about the result of properly placed affections.  He not only found God’s Word totally tasty and delectable, but also found every lie and untruth extremely distasteful.  His ongoing spiritual education had refined his taste buds to the point that only the things pertaining Truth were at all pleasing.

What are some well trodden paths of deceit?

  1. Self-righteousness
  2. Pride
  3. Worldlines
  4. Hypocrisy
  5. Unbelief
  6. Immorality

 The psalmist detests them all, holding no “pet lies” affectionately to himself.  He is not of the kind that “spits out some sins, when he rolls others as sweet morsels in his mouth” (George Swinnock).

Doing what we are supposed to do and going where we are supposed to go, with whom we are supposed to be in company, puts us in the best place to love and follow the right way and to hate and turn from the wrong way.  The children of Israel chose to follow the Lord out of captivity, until the road got a little rough and they began to remember some of the lovely things they had left behind.  If we don’t loathe the things from which we have turned, we WILL return to them… even if it is in a whiney unbelieving attitude.

Love is the difference.  If we love our flesh, we will find that the well trodden paths of deceit are so alluring that we will find ourselves on them without even realizing it.  If we love the Lord, however, even should we find ourselves headed down one of those paths of deceit, we will turn quickly and return to Him.  Love is a commitment and is not a feeling, and that is never more true than in our relationship with the Lord.  We commit to follow Him, to love Him, to obey Him… and then we trust Him to give us what we need to follow Him, to love Him, and to obey Him.

John 14:23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.”

Lord, only You can give me the desire to follow after You, the ability to follow after You, and the affections to keep me following after You.  I need You!  You said that if we abide in You, You would come abide with us.  I come to You and, in faith, I trust You to come to me.  Let me distinguish between the things that “feel” good and the things that are actually good because they are Yours.  May I hate ALL the paths of deceit and love Yours.

The Eternal Sweet Treat

25 06 2012

Psalms 119:103 How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

 He had not only heard the words of God, but fed upon them: they affected his palate as well as his ear. God’s words are many and varied, and the whole of them make up what we call “the word”: David loved them each one, individually, arid the whole of them as a whole; he tasted an indescribable sweetness in them. He expresses the fact of their sweetness, but as he cannot express the degree of their sweetness he cries, “How sweet!” Being God’s words they were divinely sweet to God’s servant; he who put the sweetness into them had prepared the taste of his servant to discern and enjoy it. David makes no distinction between promises and precepts, doctrines and threatenings; they are all included in God’s words, and all are precious in his esteem. Oh for a deep love to all that the Lord has revealed, whatever form it may take. — C. H. Spurgeon

To a non-believer God’s Word is a bitter pill to swallow; but to a true servant it is the thing that is most delightful.  Appetizers and main courses may be delicious and the staple of what fills our belly, but the best part is always dessert!  The psalmist had feasted well on God’s Word and found that it was the thing that topped everything else.

Recently I fasted from sugar for six weeks.  It was amazing to me how much I craved just a little taste of sweetness throughout the day, but most especially after a meal.  It was a craving that never really left.  I truly believe that the God who made us so intricately and with such care put that desire for sweet within us.  He didn’t have to.  He could have left that taste bud right off our palate and we would have been none the wiser.  So, when I see the psalmist comparing the Word to that same sweet deliciousness, how can I not assume that it was put there so that we would have no doubt in our mind how wonderfully delightful God’s Word can be to our senses.

Have you ever tried to drink orange juice after eating a donut?  It doesn’t taste very good, even though it is normally very sweet and delicious.  Our palette is easily corrupted with the sweet things of the world so that when we do taste the world, its true and natural sweetness is lost to us.

How sweet do I find the Word?  Perhaps if it isn’t the sweetest thing on my plate, it is time to change my diet.

 If we would taste the honey of God, we must have the palate of faith. –A.R. Fausset.

Your word, O Lord is tasty goodness to me this morning.  Cleanse the palette of my heart with the holiness of Your Presence so that it finds Your word the sweetest thing in my life.  May I find it delightful enough to share it with others too.  And may I never find the dainty things the world tantalizing enough to trade Your sweetness for their saccharine delights.


Love Makes a Better Student

24 06 2012

Psalms 119:102 I have not turned aside from Your ordinances, For You Yourself have taught me.

  •  Turned aside:  literally, turned off
  • Ordinances:  judicial verdicts (judgments)
  • Taught:  to point out as if aiming with one’s finger

We learn best by observing those we love and by actively participating with them in whatever it is that we are learning.  For instance, if I want to learn to cook, I can turn on Food Network and watch a bunch of folks I don’t know and get a whole lot of information about cooking, most of it really good information.  Even with all the great chefs, wonderful techniques, and delightful recipes, I probably will glean little by just watching.  If, however, Paula Deena was my mother (we do share a common love for butter!), and I sat in her kitchen every day watching her, and doing the things that she showed me, then I would most definitely learn to not only cook, but cook well.

Personally, I think this is the biggest issue with our youngsters these days.  There is no one home to teach them anything.  From cooking to character, and everything in between, our young people are being educated by strangers and by their peers.  But I digress…

Our Heavenly Father hard-wired us to learn best under personal care, and He is oh so good at bringing that type of “home school” to our spiritual education.  He personally teaches us with His own hand upon hearts and minds, using the methods and tools specifically designed for our learning.  There are no learning disabilities that He is not completely and utterly qualified to overcome.

  •  John 14:26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.
  •  1 John 2:27 As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.

So, why does it seem like I struggle to learn some things?

I homeschooled my youngest son from third grade through high school graduation.  He was extremely bright and had an amazing capacity to learn the things that he enjoyed.  The unfortunate part is that none of the things he enjoyed pertained to school work.  Thus, reading, writing and arithmetic were the thorns in the side of his existence.  After a couple of hours of lessons, he used to tell me that he was “full of learning”.  He would quite literally shut down and there just was no getting any more learning done because he closed the door to it.  He, in essence, turned off the volume to my voice and tuned me out.

Not only do we learn best under personal care, but we also learn the quickest the things we value, appreciate or love the most.  The issue is not with the Teacher or the with Lesson, it is often with the Student (me!).  Sometimes I am like my son and just get “full of learning”, feeling burdened and overwhelmed by my circumstances.  Other times, I hit the “off” button without even realize I have done so, because I am way too much like the dog on the movie UP! that is distracted by every squirrel, thought of a squirrel or sound of a squirrel around him.  It doesn’t take much to distract me from the Lesson at hand.

 Lest it should seem that David ascribed the praise of godliness to himself, or that it came from any goodness in him that he did refrain his feet from every evil way, he gives here all the glory to God, protesting, that because God did teach him, therefore he declined not. Wherefrom we learn, that if at any time we stand, or if when we have fallen we rise and repent, it is ever to be imputed to God that teacheth us; for there is no evil so abominable, but it would soon become plausible to us, if God should leave us to ourselves. David was taught by his ordinary teachers, and he did reverence them; but that he profited by them he ascribes unto God. Paul may plant, and Apollos water; God must give the increase. –William Cowper.

The psalmist removed the “off” button from his ears, keeping himself available to God’s lessons at all times.  He made a choice to learn and not to stop learning.

Quiet times are a necessary part of the spiritual learning process, and provide a solid and consistent time to learn; but the heart that is only willing to learn in the school room will find his educational progress retarded and incomplete.  The things we learn in the quiet of our time with the Lord, must be practiced and worked out in the rest of our lives or they will be left behind in the room in which we studied.  That means that we become like the psalmist who was willing to take the Teacher and His Lessons with him everywhere he went because he loved Him and wanted to learn all He had for him.

   The choice property of this teaching is, not only that it makes wise, but that it captivates the soul, strengthens it, and holds it to a holy obedience. –J.F. (From Treasury of David)

Oh, Lord, I do so love You and I love Your word.  I WANT to make sure that my ears never get plugged or distracted from Your personal teachings, for I know that in them is my hope, my comfort, my salvation, and my direction; but I cannot do it on my own.  I need You to fill me with Your Holy Spirit so that I the lessons are not lost or wasted.  May Your love for me keep me close and may my love for You keep me attentive to You.