Articles

Psalm 90

I encourage you to read Psalm 90 today. The text is below at the end of this post. What I see in this Psalm, this prayer of Moses, is a contemplation on the eternal nature of God in contrast to the fleeting life of a human being. We are but dust, like grass, and we soon fly away. God, however, is from everlasting to everlasting. For us 70-80 years is a long time, but 1,000 years is like “yesterday when it is past” to God.

Since this is a prayer of Moses, Moses makes certain requests of God. Take note of what he is asking God.

Show us goodness in our lives, not just the bad things. We know that God’s wrath is real, and light of His holiness exposes our secret sins. Moses asks for God to show us not only His wrath and justice but also His goodness in our lives. He also requests for God to “establish” the work of his hands. Help us accomplish our plans and purposes and dreams. I like the specific request in verse 15 for God to “make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil.”

He wants God to help him “number” his days, so that he would gain a heart of wisdom. Lord, help us appreciate how fleeting life is, and to cherish every moment we have here on the planet. I have talked to several men and women in my age group recently, and I’m hearing the same things. You have kids growing up, graduating, going to college, thinking of finding a spouse, etc. On the other hand your parents are aging, and you are seeking to help them in that stage of their lives. But then you are seeing your own life really racing by. You begin to see what those older folks told you decades ago about how life just blows right by you, while you were thinking at the time, “Yeah, yeah, I know….” Well, life does really just scream right passed you like an Indy car. So, Moses as an old man is keenly aware of how fast life goes by, and he shows us the wisdom of asking God to help us cherish each day, each moment.

 

A Prayer of Moses, the man of God. Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. You return man to dust and say, “Return, O children of man!” For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night. You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning: in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers. For we are brought to an end by your anger; by your wrath we are dismayed. You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. For all our days pass away under your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh. The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away. Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you? So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. Return, O LORD! How long? Have pity on your servants! Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil. Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!
(Psa 90:1-17)

What Your Friends Say

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

Whoever started that statement may have had good intentions, but he or she could not have been more wrong. That is such an untrue statement, and it will not help heal the wounds that words make.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits (Proverbs 18:21).

I am currently doing some studying on the book of Job. Job’s friends said a lot of things about him, and they made some pretty serious and damning accusations. And the more the discussions went on, the more they heaped on him and the more they created about him. According to their words, he was the worst kind of sinner, and he deserved every bit of the “punishment” he was receiving from God. Consider that “sticks and stones” quote with how Job felt about the words of his friends:

“How long will you torment me and break me in pieces with words?” 
(Job 19:2)

Job would rather have been beaten with sticks and stones than to have these words thrown his way by his “friends.”

The problem with the friends that is that they were dead wrong about Job, they were wrong about God, and they didn’t know a thing about comforting someone regardless of how sincere they thought their motives were. Listen to what God says about Job.

And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?”
(Job 1:8)

And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.”
(Job 2:3)

After the LORD had spoken these words to Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves. And my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly. For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did what the LORD had told them, and the LORD accepted Job’s prayer.
(Job 42:7-9)

Even later in the Bible, Job is considered by God as one of the most faithful and righteous men to ever live (Ezekiel 14:14,20; James 5:11).

One thing to remember from all of this is that what other’s say about you is hurtful, but what really matters is what God says about you. Job lived his life in such a way that he had the Lord’s approval, even if others were saying bad things about him.

I’ve heard the following quote from several sources, and I leave it for your consideration:

It’s not what people call you, it’s what you answer to that matters.

A final thought, notice that God required Job to pray for his three friends. Even after all the nasty things they said, God wanted Job to pray for them. This coincides with Matthew 5:44, when Jesus asks us to pray for those who mistreat us. While we are praying for our own healing, we must also pray for those who have hurt us.

A Loud Voice Early in the Morning

Whoever blesses his neighbor with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, will be counted as cursing.
(Proverbs 27:14)

How can a blessing be counted as a curse? In this particular proverb, there are a few ideas to consider.

For one, it may be that my timing is off. Having a loud voice can be annoying at anytime in the day, having a loud voice in the morning may lead to gunfire, no matter how good your intentions are. I don’t want to violate the context of Ecclesiastes 3, but Solomon did say there was a time to speak and a time to be silent. We do have to know what time it is! A man has joy in an apt answer, and how delightful is a timely word! (Proverbs 15:23).

Secondly, my approach may be completely turning a positive thing into a negative thing. “The words of the wise heard in quiet are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools” (Ecclesiastes 9:17). Why would you have to shout it early in the morning to get your point across?

Thirdly, I need to consider my motives in why I’m gushing and lavishing praise on someone. When someone is just heaping an unusual amount of praise and adoration on another, it naturally leads the recipient to suspect the motives behind it. Is this really a genuine blessing, or is something behind all this cavity-causing sweetness? Remember as it is often said that compliments are like perfume, you are to sniff it, not swallow it. I don’t mean that we are to constantly call into doubt our motives or the motives of others, but there are times when the amount of praise, the timing of it and the volume in which it is exclaimed can really turn into a curse in the end. Solomon sure had a lot of wisdom, didn’t he?

Doing Jesus a Favor

Here are a few excerpts of passages from Mark 9-10. Yesterday, I preached a sermon on “Doing Jesus a Favor.” The 12 disciples were committed to following Jesus, and had a lot of great intentions, but their heads were not screwed on straight yet. Jesus had to transform their hearts, and that was going to take a lot of time and events, not to mention the working of the Holy Spirit in their hearts.

The disciples were impressed with a lot of the wrong things. The disciples also many times tried to do Jesus a favor, but Jesus always had another idea for what He wanted from them.

“Let us make 3 tents…” (Mark 9:5). Peter thought it would be great to make 3 tents to memorialize the incredible event of Moses, Elijah and Jesus meeting together. God had different ideas – what God wanted was for Peter to listen to Jesus.

For on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest (Mark 9:33-34). Jesus had just told them He was going to be tortured and killed, and it led into a discussion of who the greatest disciple is. Question, are we doing Jesus a favor by serving Him? Jesus says that the greatest in the kingdom will be like a little child.

“We tried to stop him” (Mark 9:38; see also Numbers 11:26-29 & Luke 9:49-56). John thought he was doing Jesus a favor by excluding and stopping others because they were not “following” them. We are not doing Jesus a favor by having a sectarian spirit. Of course, God expects us to stand for truth and to preach sound doctrine, but Jesus wants us to have humble hearts and merciful attitudes toward others.

…and the disciples rebuked them (Mark 10:13). Again the disciples thought they were doing Jesus a favor by keeping the little children away from Jesus. Here is one of a few occasions where Jesus was angry. In fact, the word is “indignant.” Jesus was not impressed by this, He was really angry that His disciples were looking at others, especially kids, in this way.

Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you” (Mark 10:28). Jesus did commend His disciples for leaving everything to follow Him, and He will reward anyone who makes such a sacrifice, but remember that we are not doing Jesus a favor by leaving all to follow Him. Jesus had to remind Peter of a couple things: one is that those rewards come “with persecutions,” and two is that the “first will be last and the last will be first” (Mark 10:30-31).

“Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you” (Mark 10:35). Notice that two times in Mark 10, Jesus asked the question, “What do you want Me to do for you?” (Mark 10:36,51). The first time He asked James and John, and they asked for the vice-president seats. James and John wanted the best seats and positions in the kingdom. The second time Jesus asked this question, it was of the blind man named Bartimaeus. He simply requested in faith for his sight to be restored. The heart of Bartimaeus in his request was 180 degrees opposite from the heart of James and John.

So, where is our heart today? Are we committed to doing “great” things for Jesus. Do we want to do Jesus a favor? Remember that what Jesus is looking for is humility, service and genuine faith. Jesus wants us to see with His eyes when we see others. Instead of arguing who the greatest is, realize that this discussion already has an answer – it is Jesus.

It is finished

I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!
(Luke 12:50)

I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.
(John 17:4)

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
(John 19:28-30)

One of the last words Jesus spoke on the cross was a Greek word which means “it is finished or accomplished.” He used that word several times in His ministry, one of note is the passage above in Luke 12. Jesus was “distressed” until this work was accomplished. I just feel a sigh of relief coming from the soul of Jesus as He said that word on the cross. It is finished, I accomplished the work God gave Me to do. He could now go on to the joy set before Him (Heb. 12:2).

Even though we cannot come close to understanding the level of “distress” Jesus felt, we can understand that there are sacrifices we make and crosses we bear as Christians today. And what Jesus said there at the cross is what every Christian should be able to say at the end of his or her own life. Take the apostle Paul for example:

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished (same word Jesus used) the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.
(2 Timothy 4:6-8)

Jesus was “distressed,” Paul was “burdened beyond measure” at times, and the same is for the Christian today. But we also have joy in our hearts knowing that God is always with us through those trials, and we know that one day we will lay down that cross and receive a crown. We will then be able to say, “It is finished.”

Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”
(Revelation 14:12-13)

The Written Word Comes from THE Word

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
(Hebrews 4:12-13)

Last night in our Bible class, we were discussing the power and living nature of the Scriptures. The reason this book is like no other is because it flows from the mind, soul and being of an all-powerful God. The word of God, the Scripture, is the very breath of the Word of God, Jesus Christ.

Jesus is living, so His words are living. He is active in the world, so His words are also active. Jesus is powerful, so His words are powerful. The words Jesus said were often sharp, so naturally the written word that came from His mouth would also be sharp. Jesus read the hearts of men, nothing was hidden from Him, and the same goes for the words from His mouth, they read our hearts. His word is just like Him in that it shines the light and exposes the darkness.

There is no other document like the Bible ever written in human history because there is no other person like Jesus. He authored every word.

May we today stand in awe of the Scriptures, as we stand in awe of the Savior and Lord who gave it to us.

The Company You Keep

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.
(Proverbs 13:20)

Today’s article is one of caution, but also of encouragement: the company you keep will (not can) influence you in one direction or another. This is a discussion that I’m sure many of you as parents are having with your kids, but remember that it applies to big people, too.

The new Galatians Christians were “quickly deserting” the gospel of Jesus Christ. Why? Because a little leaven leavens the whole lump. Some among them were troubling them and perverting the gospel (Galatians 1:6-7; 2:4; 4:17; 5:7-10; 6:12-13). It is a reminder of how quickly someone can be turned away from God and led to believe lies.

The same thing was happening in the Corinthian congregation. Some were preaching that there is no resurrection of the dead, and Paul warned that bad company (and teaching) can corrupt good morals (1 Corinthians 15:12,33).

We see the same warnings by Paul as he wrote to the young evangelist Timothy. Certain conversations along with certain types of people can lead to the “ruin of the hearers,” and will “lead people into more ungodliness.” This teaching and influence will spread like gangrene, resulting in the “upsetting” of the faith of some (2 Timothy 2:14-18). These are powerful warnings from God, and as parents and children we should take heed.

There are verses aplenty about how many will follow the bad influences of others. It’s not just about false teaching, it may be that you are hanging around people with lousy attitudes and worldly passions, and that will take you down the wrong road as well (Hebrews 12:15; 2 Peter 2:2,18).

We are called by God to come out from among these evil influences and to chose holy friends and godly influences (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).

I am a companion of all who fear you, of those who keep your precepts.
(Psalm 119:63)

Think of what David just said. Who are his companions? Those who fear God and keep His commandments. Those are great friends!

Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.
(1 John 3:13-14)

What is the sign that we have passed from death into life, according to John? Our relationships! When we love the brothers, we will abide in life. When we love the world, we will by definition hate the brothers, and we will abide in death.

Look at this passage from Malachi. In the midst of a lot of wickedness and religious hypocrisy, there was a righteous remnant that hung out with each other and encouraged each other. See how God took notice of this?

Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name. “They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.
(Malachi 3:16-18)

And all who believed were together…
(Acts 2:44)

The believers were together. When we are together, powerful things happen for the kingdom of God. Our fellowship is not with this world, it is with Jesus Christ, His blood, and His body of believers!

that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.
(1 John 1:3)

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
(1 John 1:7)

It really is pretty simple, if you want to move closer to God, look at your friends and relationships. Where are they leading you?

A Word Fitly Spoken

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.
(Proverbs 25:11)

Have you had someone give you a specific compliment that pointed out an area where you really do well in? How did that make you feel? Didn’t it make you want to take on the world?

Today is just a quick thought that we should always be looking for where people shine in life and make sure they hear us say it. Those “words fitly spoken” are truly like apples of gold in settings of silver.

Most importantly, men, let’s do this in our marriages. It is too easy and very destructive to find the problems. How about we look for where our wives shine and praise them up and down for it?

Listen to the Messiah speak in Isaiah 50:4,

The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught.

He had the prayer of the learned, so that He could “sustain with a word him who is weary.” Your few words of encouragement have that much power! Pointing out the talents and strengths of another may help that person be renewed in strength. Sometimes all we see in ourselves is the problems, the weaknesses and the lack of abilities. Somebody else can help us see more realistically and with it will revive our spirits!

Lessons from 9 and 10 year olds

And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.
(Mark 10:13-16)

Last week as I was part of a camp, I spent a lot of time with the 9 and 10 year old kids. One of my blessings last week was to teach their Bible class. I truly believe they taught me more than I taught them.

I just wanted to share a couple of things I learned from them last week.

  1. They had a hunger for the word of God. Our Bible class was at 3:10 in the afternoon and these kids had been going strong with activities all day long in the very hot summer weather. Yet, they came alert, ready and excited to study God’s word. They were engaged; they participated, they asked questions. It reminded me of the story of Jesus at 12 (see Luke 2).
  2. Their understanding, knowledge and ability to apply the word of God was a beauty to behold. For a majority of these kids that participated in class, the understanding of God’s word was in no way elementary or shallow. It showed in their comments and questions, they were very familiar with the Scriptures and the principles God wants us to learn from it.

As Jesus said in the passage above in Mark 10, the kingdom of God is made from hearts like these 9-10 year olds. If these young men and women can have such a hunger for God’s word, then those who are older can have it too. If these 9-10 year olds can understand the word of God and what it takes to please God, then God’s word can be understood by any age group.

Don’t ever get caught thinking that those young men and women can’t understand the word of God and the truths you are trying to teach them. They are super smart.