Thursday, January 28, 2016

Thoughts on Psalm 119:21

21 You rebuke the proud—the cursed,
Who stray from Your commandments.

There is something in this verse that is very subtle, and just glancing it over it is easy to miss the connection. When reading Psalm 119 we do well to look at it a few times, and not just fly through it like it’s a facebook post of what someone had for breakfast.

It says here that “God rebukes the proud.”

God hates pride.

It’s true - God hates certain things. Hate wasn’t invented by the devil. I have not found any indication in Scripture that the devil has ever created anything. He only twists and perverts what God has created. For example, overwhelming desires. Consider music and sex as other examples. Created by God for something holy, something beautiful - perverted by Satan.

I would suggest that the same idea applies to hate and anger. The distinguishing factor, though, is the object that hate is directed to. If it is sin we hate - that is fueled by God. But if it’s another person - that is fueled by the devil and his lies.

So what is pride? And why does God hate it?

The answer is found here in Psalm 119:21, hidden just below the surface of those simple words. And I will leave it at that - for you to meditate on. Though I will suggest it might help to compare and contrast verse 21 with verse 10:

With my whole heart I have sought You;
Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! Ps 119:10

One final comment about God “rebuking the proud.” The Father never corrects us in anger, never for punishment. Jesus took the punishment that we deserved. But He corrects us for our own benefit.

God is love… There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. 1 John 4:16, 18 NIV

If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons… Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Heb 12:7, 11

I encourage you to take the verses and turn them over and over in your mind. Draw out the nourishment that lives within them.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Thoughts on Psalm 119:20

20 My soul breaks with longing
For Your judgments at all times.

“My soul breaks with longing… at all times” How might we translate that in modern vernacular?

One translation puts it this way: “I am always overwhelmed with a desire for…” (NLT)

There is a word that comes to mind when I read that description. And in today’s world it is always, always used in a negative sense. I have never heard it seriously used in a positive sense. When people hear it, they cringe. Images of brokenness and damaged lives fill our minds.

This word is inseparably linked to the devil and his schemes. In the minds of millions, he is undoubtedly the father of this gruesome word: Addicted.

Before I met the Lord in 2005, I was hopelessly entrapped in addiction. Guilt, Shame, and Fear were my constant companions as I was “always overwhelmed with a desire for” sin. I knew it was wrong. I hated what I was doing. I would stop for a few days or weeks. But I was utterly devoted to it. Truly I was a slave to sin.

Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? Rom 6:16

I met a young man in college who invited me to his Bible study. I wasn’t interested, but Something was drawing me - so I went. I found myself going back week after week.

Almost imperceptibly, that addiction became broken off of my life. I can’t point to a single moment in time. It was like I had been in a dark room all of my life, and someone finally came and started turning the dimmer switch, gradually increasing the light over those weeks in October 2005.

As the light entered the room, the darkness just naturally left. That is, as the light of the Word of God began to illuminate my heart and mind, the power of sin lost its grip on me. And two astonishing changes took place in my heart: I didn’t want to do that any more, and furthermore, I couldn’t do it any more.

I had moments of severe temptation - when my body literally surged with desire. But I discovered that I had this new empowerment to simply say “No.” It was like that moment at the end of The Matrix when the agents shot at Neo. He turns and just quietly says, “no” and the bullets stopped in mid air.

Above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one Eph 6:16

Because of the Cross of Christ sin has lost its power over us.

For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him Rom 6:7-8

And when we step out of death and into life, we get new “addictions” - powerful desires and longings - which actually satisfy and fulfill us, rather than leaving us empty and frustrated.

My soul breaks with longing for Your judgments at all times.

I am always overwhelmed by a desire for Your Word.

I am addicted to Your Word.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Thoughts on Psalm 119:19

19 I am a stranger in the earth;
Do not hide Your commandments from me.

In verse 17, we considered how healthy it is to view ourselves as servants. Here is another liberating self-image that we can obtain by peering into the mirror of God’s Word: that of a stranger, or pilgrim.

Consider Hebrews 11, the famous “faith hall of fame.” Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Israel, David, Joseph, Samson, and many other men and women we still read about and learn from thousands of years later. And how did they view themselves?

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. Heb 11:13

For Americans, it’s easy to get a picture in our minds of pilgrims: they wear black clothes, funny hats, and sailed on the Mayflower. But a pilgrim is just someone who goes on a long journey, especially for religious reasons. Wherever they are, they may stay for a while, but they aren’t putting down roots, because they are on their way to somewhere else.

And if you have accepted Jesus’ payment on the Cross for your sin (Oh, God, thank You that You have forgiven my sin!); if you have been born again, then you are a pilgrim whether you know it or not, because you are on your way to somewhere else. But knowing that you are a pilgrim results in a blessing.

Blessed is the man whose strength is in You,
Whose heart is set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baca,
They make it a spring Psalm 84:5-6

Psalm 84 makes it very clear that there is a correlation between having the strength of God and seeing yourself as a pilgrim. It’s not being weighed down by temporary, earthly things. It’s having an eternal mindset that puts the struggles, trials, and desires of this life into a proper perspective, so that even death has lost its sting (1 Cor 15:55).

And as a result, you are just “passing through” the valley of Baca, that is, the valley of weeping. And as you pass through, on your way to your ultimate destination, recognizing that you are not stuck in the valley of weeping forever, you will actually turn it into a spring: a source of life-giving water. A miracle that is brought about by the strength of God flowing through you.

So Dad finally gets the kids in the car, and they’re off to Disneyland. They drive a couple of days, and make a stop for the night. Across the street from the motel is a  run-down city park. The teeter-totter is broken, the slide is full of mud, the water fountain is stopped up. The kids start crying, saying, “Dad! Our park was better than this! We should’ve just stayed home!”

Dad grabs his toolbox, takes the kids by the hand, and leads them across the street to the park. They clean the slide, fix the teeter-totter, and unclog the water fountain. They play and have a great time, then get back in the car to continue on to Disneyland. Before they do, Dad kneels down and looks his kids in the eye, saying:

“You’re just passing through. Don’t get discouraged because things look ugly here. You’re on your way to a place so wonderful you cannot even imagine it. Set your heart on your destination, and enjoy the journey. And while you’re here, leave it better than you found it. I’ll be with you, and I’ll help you.”

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Thoughts on Psalm 119:18

18 Open my eyes, that I may see
Wondrous things from Your law.

Another magnificent request.
Praying the word of God is one of the most fruitful, beneficial activities we can participate in.
In my mind, I picture a man with his kids. They say, “Dad, can you please take us to the park so we can go on the slide?” And he says to his kids, “Sure! But I also want to take you to Disneyland so you can ride the rollercoaster!” More than what the kids could even imagine! After a few weeks, the initial excitement of the news wears off. So they come and hesitantly ask, “Dad, will you please take us to Disneyland?” And the Dad thinks, “Yeah I will! In fact that was my idea! I want to; I said I would, so I will!”
That’s how it is with God the Father. We go to Him and ask Him for things we think are so huge, but are the spiritual equivalent of a man taking his kids to the park. Then we read the Bible, and He opens our eyes to something wondrous, something breathtaking that completely exceeds anything we could have imagined. So when we ask Him for it in Jesus’ name – that is, because Jesus has made these promises available to us through His death and resurrection – He says, “Yes! Absolutely!” (See 2 Cor 1:20)

Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him 1 Cor 2:9

Beautiful! But if we haven’t seen it or heard it, if it hasn’t entered our hearts – how could we possibly know what those things are? Well, read the next sentence:

But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. 1 Cor 2:10

Notice that it doesn’t say He is going to reveal. He has revealed it to you. If you’re not seeing it, it’s not because He’s not showing it, it’s because you’re not looking.

Imagine if those kids were just crying to their dad all the time, “Please! Please take us to the park so we can slide! Please! Please!” And he can’t get a word in – he’s trying to say, “Disneyland! Rollercoasters!” He puts a poster on the fridge. He buys Mickey Mouse ears and puts them on.  But they never stop to listen to what their dad is trying to tell them he wants to do. His plans are better, more than they can even imagine - but they’re missing out because they aren’t connecting with their dad. Selah.

This is why Psalm 119 is worth praying. Pray it now: Lord, please open my eyes that I may see wondrous things from Your law! Asking God sincerely for this will transform the way you approach the word of God. Accept by faith the answer to this prayer, being totally confident that it is God’s will, and start anticipating that you will see amazing things in the Bible.

Back to 1 Corinthians, He goes on to say that one of the reasons why He has given us His Spirit: “that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. 1 Cor 2:12

Notice again the tense – have been given. He hasn’t given us to Spirit so that He can give us things, but so that we can know what He’s already given.

God has wondrous things to show you in His word. He wants to show you – that’s why He wrote this prayer in His word: to teach you to ask Him for it!

“If you will pray this prayer, I will answer it. It is My heart’s desire to open your eyes to the things I have for you – presents that remain unwrapped. It is My pleasure to hide things for you, My child, and to see the joy on your face when you uncover the marvelous mysteries in My word. Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks, it will be opened. If you ask Me for bread, will I give you a stone?”

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Thoughts on Psalm 119:17

17 Deal bountifully with Your servant,
That I may live and keep Your word.

There is one word in that prayer that stands out, shining like a brilliant star against the vast expanse of a dark sky.


It is an idea rarely considered, seldom praised.

In this world of instant information, endless gadgets, strivings for success, fortune, fame, power, and pleasure - servants are rare. Those who are willing to forego their own pleasure, their own fame, their own honor - to serve someone else.

This idea is so radical, so absolutely contrary to our modern culture and mindset, which says you have to strive and grasp and fight and lie and cheat and steal in order to get yours. You’d better look out for #1, because no one else will.

If we really stop and take inventory - it’s disgusting. Like being slimed by an overly aggressive salesman that has no tact.

But there is something I am yet unable to articulate about the beauty and purity of serving God. There is something wholesome about it. The selfless consideration of God and others at the expense of our own convenience.

There comes a point when servanthood touches the safety blanket of our comfort zone. That is the point when we find out what’s really in our heart - to be self-serving or God-serving.

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery (something to grasp at) to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name... Phil 2:5-9

I know a woman who is a servant. She is a rare jewel. I silently watched for 18 months as day-in and day-out she gave of herself to an elderly woman who could not take care of herself. Underpaid and underappreciated, she shopped for, cooked for, bathed, fellowshipped and loved this elderly woman. She stood by her side at hospital visits, ensuring she received quality care, demanding accountability. She drove her across the country to see her children and grandchildren. She became her dear friend. It was obvious it wasn’t just a job to serve her; she wasn’t just going through the motions as she worked 18 hour days, having only 4 days off each month. She will not go without a reward.

She is a servant, and I am honored to call her my wife.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Psalm 20 Music

Psalm 20 has been on my radar for several years now. I love the words...May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble... may He grant you according to your heart's desire... and so on. Beautiful. What a beautiful blessing, and an expression of God's desire toward us.

I came up with the guitar diddy first (on Oct 26, 2015), and then flipped through a few psalms to see if I could make the words fit. I was delighted to hear Psalm 20 come alive; I've tried at various times for years with no success. But when the words and music connect, something resonates inside of me that says, "this is it!" Sometimes I marvel when I write music, thinking, "that sounds so good... how could I ever write music like that?!"

A week ago or so, I was playing with an app on my iphone called Loopy HD, which can be used to create music loops. I thought the Psalm 20 diddy would lend itself to looping, so I recorded the guitar part and then added another loop hitting the guitar to make the percussion sounds. Very simple, but I like the result.

I pray that as you listen to this, you hear God's heart for you - these words are an expression of His will, His desire - and that as you hear, you will meditate on the word of God day and night until you hear the Holy Spirit say, "This is for you!"

1 May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble;
May the name of the God of Jacob defend you;

2 May He send you help from the sanctuary,
And strengthen you out of Zion;

3 May He remember all your offerings,
And accept your burnt sacrifice. Selah

4 May He grant you according to your heart’s desire,
And fulfill all your purpose.

5 We will rejoice in your salvation,
And in the name of our God we will set up our banners!
May the Lord fulfill all your petitions.

6 Now I know that the Lord saves His anointed;
He will answer him from His holy heaven
With the saving strength of His right hand.

7 Some trust in chariots, and some in horses;
But we will remember the name of the Lord our God.

8 They have bowed down and fallen;
But we have risen and stand upright.

9 Save, Lord!
May the King answer us when we call.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Thoughts on Psalm 119:16

16 I will delight myself in Your statutes;
I will not forget Your word.

In the last two verses, I’ve shared two unforgettable moments when God has spoken to me. The words on the pages of the Bible were quickened by the Holy Spirit; the Word and Breath came together to become a Voice. (We never speak without breathing/exhaling, and we’re created in God’s image - think about that.)

For a long time, I thought that Jesus heard God’s voice differently than that. I thought that because He is the Christ, God in the flesh, somehow He had some special connection with the Father so that He heard Him directly. Or maybe that He just instinctively knew all things. And that His level of intimacy with the Father was out of reach for me.

But Jesus was born a baby - a human baby - and as such He had absolutely no knowledge. And yet, He claimed to be the Christ - God manifested as a human (John 4:25-26, 10:30-33, 14:9-10). Somewhere along the line He must have come across this information that He is God! But how?

I am captivated by the thought - and I believe this is God speaking to me and you - that the Father spoke in this exact same way to Jesus: by the Holy Spirit quickening the Scripture.

Hebrews 10:5-7 gives some insight into this:
Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: ...
‘Behold, I have come— In the volume of the book it is written of Me

“The volume of the book” is essentially referring to the Old Testament, but this is a direct quotation from Psalm 40:7. At one point, Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures, for in them You think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.John 5:39

In my mind, I picture Jesus reading the Bible, and He comes across Psalm 40. As He is reading, suddenly those words jump off the page at Him… it is written of me. Something deep inside of Him says, “This is Me. This is talking about Me.” And that was the Holy Spirit breathing on those words, revealing to Him who He is.

And then on another day, He reads this passage:
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound… Isaiah 61:1

Again, the Holy Spirit whispers, “This is You! This was written about You!”

So when Jesus began His public ministry, He went into a synagogue and read this passage from Isaiah, and then said to the people, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearingLuke 4:1821 In other words, “This is Me.” He read it, and somehow knew that it was talking about Him.

Have you ever wondered:

Did He just have supernatural knowledge? Well, He did. But He wasn’t omniscient (all knowing) in His life on earth. So that’s not how He knew all of these things. In fact, when He read the Bible, it became for Him a road map, giving Him directions for His life, ministry, death and resurrection.

Consider what happened in His heart when He read these passages of Scripture, in light of the questions above:
  • Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me. Psalm 41:9 (see John 13:18)
  • Strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered Zech 13:7 (see Matt 26:31)
  • They pierced my hands and my feet Psalm 22:16
  • When You make His soul an offering for sin Isaiah 53:10
  • You will not leave my soul in Sheol (Hell), nor will you allow Your Holy One to see corruption. Psalm 16:10
  • O Lord, You brought my soul up from the grave Psalm 30:3

In each instance, He came across these words that were written hundreds of years before He was born, and the Holy Spirit whispered to His heart, “This is You! This is written about You!”

Jesus didn’t instinctively know all things, nor did He have special revelation from the Father because He Himself was God in the flesh. He lived as a man, and received revelation from the Father exactly as any man or woman does - by the Word of God and by the Holy Spirit.

And that same revelation is available to anyone willing to read the Bible and open their heart to  listen to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit highlights some words, saying, “This is you! This is written for you!”  

And as the psalmist says - it truly is a delight, and absolutely unforgettable.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.