God’s Word Can Make You Wiser

O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever mine. I have more insight than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, because I have observed Your precepts.
(Psalms 119:97-100)

What power did the word of God have upon David? According to these verses, God’s word:

  • Made David wiser than his enemies.
  • Gave him more insight than all his teachers.
  • He was able to understand more than the aged.

I do not believe David was being arrogant and cocky when he said this. You can say these words out of a prideful heart thinking you are the cat’s meow of Christianity. And if we have that attitude, God will have to teach us some very difficult lessons in humility (Phil. 3:15)!

What I believe David is saying is that because of God’s word he was able to deal effectively with his enemies. We all have enemies, whether or not we follow God’s word. But when we listen carefully to the instruction of Scripture, we have an understanding and perspective that is foreign to the people of the world. It will truly stand out and shine.

God’s word did not make David the “smartest man on campus.” He was not more intelligent than his teachers. David wasn’t the man with his hand always up because he knew all the answers. This didn’t mean that David was condescending to his teachers and argued constantly with them because he knew better. You can look to Jesus at 12 years old as an example (see Luke 2). The teachers of the Word in the temple were just amazed at his understanding and answers. That is the power of the Word in a person’s heart. There is such growth and insight that comes from it.

Finally, the word of God made an old man out of David real quick. The Bible and its wisdom will make a young man or woman sound like they are decades older. Why? That’s the power of the Holy Spirit producing His wisdom within you through the word. How often do you see that young man or young woman at church who simply blows you away with their understanding? They may be 10, but they sound like they’re 40!

God’s word is just awesome and powerful, isn’t it?

Out of the Mouth of Babes

My wife, Anna, and I were part of a camp recently, and one of my joys was to teach the 9-10 year old class. Our theme for the the week for the camp was “A Mind to Work,” based on the books Ezra and Nehemiah.

We kept reinforcing the concept that the enemies of God kept doing everything in their strength and power to fight against God’s people.

On the second or third day, one of the students said, “Well if they were doing everything in their strength to fight against God’s people, and they were not successful, then they must not have had much strength.”

Very true. The enemies of God and His work do not have any strength unless we give them the strength. What power are we letting others have over us?

You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
(1 John 4:4)

The Gospel in our Relationships

I have made the point in recent discussions that the relationships we have and how we conduct ourselves in them provides a tremendous opportunity to live out and demonstrate the power of the Gospel. God has blessed us with grace, mercy, love, forgiveness, and hope. This produces a peace within…a serenity and tranquility based on a right relationship with God. From this position, we are free to truly love others and work to build them up spiritually and emotionally.

Loving others, however, isn’t always easy. Love is an action word. Love is a choice. Love requires us to humble ourselves and elevate others to a higher position of importance in our lives. That is what Jesus did. Jesus humbled Himself in becoming a man. Jesus humbled Himself in accepting the punishment due us and going to the cross to die for our sins. Jesus is the example and demonstration of all God’s blessings and personification of peace in the face of a tremendous adversity, pain and suffering. We look to Jesus’ teaching to see how it is we can and should love others in such a way that not only will we be a blessing to them but we will surely shine forth God’s glory and help others find their way to salvation, peace, and hope…now and in eternity.

Consider Jesus’ teachings in Luke 6:27-31.

27 “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. 29 To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. 31 And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.

Previously (vs. 20-23) Jesus teaches about the mindset we are to have in The Beatitudes. In a word…humility. This provides us with the foundation to then love those who are our enemies. An enemy is simply one who is opposing another. We often think of enemies as those who are outside our circle but many times they are those in our families, congregations, friends, etc. Anyone who is standing in opposition to you and your life in Jesus is an enemy and they will hurt you. So what do we do?

Jesus says our actions should be to love our enemy, do go good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us, and pray for those who mistreat us. Further, Jesus provides how we should react. If someone hits our cheek, we offer the other. If they take our coat, give them our shirt too. If they ask (even if they are hurting us)…give! If someone takes something of ours, don’t look to get it back. These take on different forms in our relationships but the principles are the same.

What this all adds up to is exactly how God loves us. We were/are His enemy when we sin and yet He took the initiative and He loved us even when we didn’t deserve it. And what a difference that has made. For those who hear and obey the call of the gospel, they are saved and redeemed and back in fellowship with the Living God. This model and example is how we are to live with those in our lives. Treat them like we have been treated by God. Do that and you will surely look different, people will notice, they will ask why and God is glorified.

Naomi became Obed’s Nurse

Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her bosom, and became a nurse to him (Ruth 4:16)

The book of Ruth begins with pain, grief, loss and bitterness, but it ends kind of like the book of Job. Naomi’s life was “restored” and her old age was “nourished” by this little grandbaby Obed (Ruth 4:15).

Obed didn’t take away the grief and memories, but he did help Naomi revive by giving her a new purpose. “Naomi took the child and laid him on her bosom, and became a nurse to him.”

There are tremendous blessings and benefits that come from serving and caring for others.

Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account (Philippians 4:17).

According to Paul, there is a “fruit that abounds” to our account. Paul did not mean, nor do I, that we serve to get something. God knows our hearts. But if we are serving and sacrificing for others, God sees it and promises blessings will come our way. But those blessings are not about money and material kickbacks.

For Naomi those blessings were that this child would restore her life and nourish her in her old age. Our life is restored and nourished when we pour ourselves into serving the people around us God has placed in our lives.

You have seen those “before” and “after” shots of people on those infomercials, right? Some “revolutionary” new treatment takes someone who is 90 and makes them look 15 again. Well, I would love to see the before and after shots of Naomi. The Naomi of chapter 1 who walks slowly back into Bethlehem wanting to be called “Mara,” and the Naomi of chapter 4 who holds this little bundle of joy called Obed.

The name Obed means “serving,” I believe, which is fitting.

Naomi did not “retire” in the kingdom of God, she was called by God into the service of a young child. There is no retirement in God’s family, no one is “put out to pasture” like a crippled, old horse.

Find someone to serve, someone to care for. Look around, especially within your congregation and see someone who is discouraged or going through some trial and find a way to brighten their day a little.

Be a Naomi for an Obed today.

Greeting with a loud voice in the morning

He who blesses his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it will be counted a curse to him (Proverbs 27:14).

This proverb is one that I have lived. I’m a morning person, Anna is not. Enough said? Some folks are 0-90 in the morning, and others are a slow build. After a few cups of coffee and some silence they are ready to go. So, for this knucklehead (me) to go around the house blasting the Beatles on the radio at 6:30 a.m. is a really bad idea!

This proverb is about knowing how to be appropriate, and how to approach people and situations properly. Your personality and the way you want to be approached may not be the same way others want to be approach. This requires humility, wisdom and seeking advice. It also means that sometimes we really blow it by approaching people the wrong way.

Here is another proverb that speaks to being proper and wise in how we approach things.

Like one who takes away a garment in cold weather, and like vinegar on soda, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart (Proverbs 25:20).

Remember those elementary school science experiments? Baking soda and vinegar…what happens? Well, it erupts and makes a mess! That’s precisely what happens when we try to sing “I’m Happy Today!” to someone who just suffered extreme loss. It erupts and makes a mess.

Here are two passages about learning how to say the right things at the right time. Let’s meditate upon this and pray for God’s wisdom to guide us today in how we approach people and situations.

Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one (Colossians 4:5-6).

A man has joy by the answer of his mouth, and a word spoken in due season, how good it is! (Proverbs 15:23)

An old Anglican prayer

Today I want to share with you an old Anglican prayer that I heard someone pray yesterday. Meditate upon these simple words:

What we know not, teach us

What we have not, give us

What we are not, make us

Here are some prayers in Scripture that go along with each of the above statements

What we know not, teach us

  • Teach Me your way, O Lord (Psalm 86:11). In Psalm 119, David repeatedly asked God to “teach” him.
  • Samson’s parents prayed for wisdom and instruction on how to raise their son (Judges 13:8).
  • Paul’s prayers for what he wanted the brethren to learn and understand (Colossians 1:9-12; Ephesians 1:15-19).

What we have not, give us

  • Wisdom (James 1:5).
  • You have not because you ask not (James 4:2).
  • Boldness to speak the gospel clearly (Ephesians 6:19-20; Colossians 4:2-4).
  • Earthly blessings of this life (1 Chronicles 4:10).
  • Longer life, physical healing (2 Kings 20:1-6).
  • Nehemiah, among his many prayers, prayed for success before speaking to the King of Persia (Nehemiah 1:11).

What we are not, make us

  • To stand perfect and complete in the will of God (Colossians 4:12).
  • To be strengthened by God in the inner man through the power of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 3:14-21).
  • You are the potter, Lord; we are the clay (Isaiah 64:8).
  • Prayers for forgiveness would fit within this prayer. If we are not forgiven, please Lord make it so through Your grace (Psalm 51; Ezra 9; Nehemiah 9; Daniel 9).

You could find many other examples. I think this would be a great sermon to preach, or a great devotional study you could lead at someone’s house.

This simple prayer packs a lot of power in it. Pray it today.

The house of him who had his sandal removed

“If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the widow of the dead man shall not be married to a stranger outside the family; her husband’s brother shall go in to her, take her as his wife, and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. And it shall be that the firstborn son which she bears will succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel. But if the man does not want to take his brother’s wife, then let his brother’s wife go up to the gate to the elders, and say, ‘My husband’s brother refuses to raise up a name to his brother in Israel; he will not perform the duty of my husband’s brother.’ Then the elders of his city shall call him and speak to him. But if he stands firm and says, ‘I do not want to take her,’ then his brother’s wife shall come to him in the presence of the elders, remove his sandal from his foot, spit in his face, and answer and say, ‘So shall it be done to the man who will not build up his brother’s house.’ And his name shall be called in Israel, ‘The house of him who had his sandal removed.’
(Deuteronomy 25:5-10)

If a man died childless, then his family line was certain to die out. God made provision in the Law of Moses for the nearest relative to marry the childless widow and raise up a child in the name of the dead husband.

This was part of God’s provision and mercy upon families. God wanted the people of Israel to be able to maintain their family line. He also ensured through the Law that each family would have a piece of property on which to perpetually raise their family and provide food and income for their families.

Another provision of this law shows how important this was to God. If a man would not perform his duty to redeem his family and raise up a son in the name of his dead brother (relative), then he was to be publicly disgraced and humiliated. You can see in the above passage in Deuteronomy how that occurred. The widow, in the public square, would take off this man’s sandal and spit in his face.

The man who would not take his role to care for his relatives would forever live with that stigma. His name would forever be ruined and his reputation sullied. That’s how important this was to God. In fact, one of Judah’s sons was struck dead by God because he refused to fulfill this obligation (Genesis 38).

God takes providing for our families and next of kin as serious business, doesn’t He?

But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
(1 Timothy 5:8)

Certainly, God doesn’t want us to do this as a grudging obligation, but to do so with joy. It should be a privilege and an honor to fulfill this role. We should consider ourselves blessed to be able to take care of those closest to us. The apostle Paul demonstrated this attitude as a spiritual father, and he “most gladly spent” to provide for the needs of his relatives in the faith, and that is the attitude we all must have in our hearts (2 Cor. 12:14-15; Ecclesiastes 5:18-20).

Plumbing the Depths of God’s Love – Transparency

3 When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long.  4 For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was turned into the drought of summer. Selah.  5 I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden.  I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah (Psalm 32:3-5 NKJV)

Are you living transparently with God and with those who mean the most to you?

Remember the points under discussion this week.  We have all sinned, sinned against God, and God alone.  He will forgive us of our sins.  Only He can.  The result of our trust in this…in His mercy through faith is that we can live a blessed life regardless of our circumstance or relationships.  This is a great promise and hopeful perspective.  Yet we don’t always allow God to forgive us…we either ignore or deny the sin in our life and the consequences are grave.

David describes how terrible it was to keep his sin to himself.  His bones wasted away through his groaning all day long. His strength was dried up and the hand of the Lord was heavy upon him.  David is describing the burden of the guilt of his sin.  His sin is eating at him continually and the guilt is wearing him down.

What does this look like in your lives?  Do you carry around sin and the associated pain?  Does your conscience keep after you with ever present reminders of the fact you did something you shouldn’t have?  Sin hurts us individually and it hurts those we care about.  Sin ultimately and initially hurts God!

It’s there for all of us whether it is a sucking chest wound or a mere flesh wound.  It doesn’t matter, it’s there.  Ignoring sin leads to committing more sins.  In fact, what we think of as small sins (flesh wound) grow into more serious sins (sucking chest wounds).  For some reason we truly think we can get away with our actions.  For some reason we think that since we can hide our sins from one another and from our family, God will not know.  This course of action leads to our own spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical destruction.

God is going to work on us to bring the sin to light.  He is not going to waiver in this and when we can see the sin and the destruction it is causing, like David did, we will go from “worldly sorrow” to “Godly Sorrow”.  World sorrow deals with fear of being exposed or sorrow from being caught.  Godly Sorrow comes when we are looking at the Lord and not ourselves and realize we have done all this wickedness to God and we need to make it right.

David is no longer in denial here.  He is not looking for the easy way out.  He is done trying to fix things.  He “acknowledges” and “confesses” his sin and iniquity to God.  No more hiding!

This is man’s part.  We have to go to God with our sin…no more hiding.  God is faithful to do His part…forgive, atone, not impute our sins, transgressions or iniquity upon us.

Let’s change our mind.  Let’s not just expect others to “be right” or “make right” or “be exposed” for what they have done, but let’s demonstrate reconciliation in our own lives.  We are all exposed…God sees…God hurts…God longs for reconciliation.  When we get that right, then our feelings for others go from “being hurt because of” to “hurt for”.  Because we want everyone else to feel the same peace/joy we have found…we hurt when we see them languishing in sin like we did.  We can endure that kind of hurt.  God does.

No more excuses.  No more denial.  No more trying to hide.  No more trying to “fix it”.  Acknowledge your sins, confess them, ask God to forgive.  You and those most important in your life cannot afford anything less.

Psalm 26 part 1

Today and tomorrow we will look at Psalm 26. Take time to read it and meditate on it.

Of David. Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the LORD without wavering. Prove me, O LORD, and try me; test my heart and my mind. For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness. I do not sit with men of falsehood, nor do I consort with hypocrites. I hate the assembly of evildoers, and I will not sit with the wicked. I wash my hands in innocence and go around your altar, O LORD, proclaiming thanksgiving aloud, and telling all your wondrous deeds. O LORD, I love the habitation of your house and the place where your glory dwells. Do not sweep my soul away with sinners, nor my life with bloodthirsty men, in whose hands are evil devices, and whose right hands are full of bribes. But as for me, I shall walk in my integrity; redeem me, and be gracious to me. My foot stands on level ground; in the great assembly I will bless the LORD.
(Psalm 26:1-12)

Please think about the prayer of David here. Consider the requests he made of God.

Request #1Vindicate me, Lord Lord. David wants the righteous and merciful judge to litigate his case.

Request #2 Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and my mind. This is one of many times that David invites God into his soul to search it, examine it and test it. He wants to be right with God, and he wants anything not found pleasing to God to be taken away.

Request #3Do not sweep my soul away with sinners, nor my life with bloodthirsty men. David’s heart and desire is to be in fellowship with God and with His people. He does not want to be associated with the wicked, nor does he want to be swept away in their lifestyle and the consequences of it.

Request #4 Redeem me, and be gracious to me. The thing he wants the most is the mercy, grace and redemption of God.

This is a great prayer. It would be good to consider using this prayer in your time with God, maybe even today.

Tomorrow, Lord willing, we will look at David’s heart, desires, hands, eyes, feet, voice, etc. that are discussed in this Psalm.

With All Who Had Separated Themselves

Then the children of Israel who had returned from the captivity ate together (the Passover) with all who had separated themselves from the filth of the nations of the land in order to seek the LORD God of Israel (Ezra 6:21).

Imagine how awesome and exciting it must have been for the Jewish exiles to come home to Jerusalem from captivity! Even more so, now the temple has been rebuilt, and they are keeping the Passover feast. What a joyous time of celebration. The Passover feast was a memorial feast that served as a reminder of how God delivered them from Egyptian bondage.

Please take note in the above passage, it was not just the Jews who ate the Passover. There were apparently Gentiles who became proselytes to the Jewish faith and sought the God of Israel. They “separated themselves from the filth of the nations of the land in order to seek the Lord God of Israel.” If you think about it, that is such an encouraging and powerful statement. These Gentiles left their pagan ways, they saw their ways as “filth” and wanted to get as far away from it as possible. They repented. God became first in their lives. If you go back to Moses’ law, it also required that the Gentile males had to be circumcised before keeping the Passover (Exodus 12:47-49). Now they are eating “together” with the Jews in this feast.

This is like the book of Ephesians. Jews and Gentiles both are united under one Lord. Together (Ephesians 1:10; 2:5,6,21,22; 4:16 – New King James Version).

In order to be together, both Jews and Gentiles had to separate themselves from the filth of the world. Here is a point about influence, men. The Gentiles were led to God because the Jews were living for God. The Jews had first left behind the ways of the world and the filth of the nations, and it became an example and a light for the Gentiles to follow.

We see other examples in Ezra and Nehemiah of God’s people doing the exact opposite. Instead of separating from the filth of the nations, they married into that filth and raised kids in it. Their kids became pagan instead of godly (Nehemiah 13). So here in Ezra 6 is a positive and powerful witness of what your influence can do for God. But you must first separate from the dirty-ness of the world.

Your friends and co-workers will see that change. Pray that they like these Gentiles will also want to come and seek the Lord God. May they be united and together with us at Christ’s table as we celebrate Jesus as our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7).

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:13-16).