Thursday, March 31, 2016

Thoughts on Psalm 119:37

37 ​​Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things,
​​And revive me in Your way.

These words have saved my life. I have prayed them thousands of times. Countless moments when I have felt weak, I have whispered these simple words, and found the strength to endure temptation.

Without question, the most prominent period in which this stands out was when I was in college. Walking across campus each day, I was constantly around young women trying to get attention by showing as much skin as they possibly could.

Thoughts came: It’s okay to look. There’s no harm in that. Everyone does it. Besides, who would know?

The devil’s lies always make sin seem harmless. It seems pleasurable and delightful. But in the end, it always - always - produces emptiness, heartache, and death.

For the lips of an immoral woman drip honey,
​​And her mouth is smoother than oil;
​​But in the end she is bitter as wormwood,
​​Sharp as a two-edged sword.
​​Her feet go down to death,
​​Her steps lay hold of hell. Proverbs 5:3-5

God created sex and sexual attraction, and He instituted the boundaries for it from the very beginning of Genesis: between a man and a woman within the covenant of marriage. (Gen 2:24)

It’s the devil who has perverted sex. And for many years of my life, that perversion brought me emptiness, heartache, and pain. So I know this first hand.

But I began to learn God’s way. His plan & purpose. His intended blessing. And when I learned that He had someone in mind for me to marry, I decided to honor God and honor my future wife by letting my eyes be only for her. Even though I had no idea who she was.

It wasn’t easy. It was one of the greatest challenges of my life. This quiet battle that no one on earth knew I was fighting. Day in and day out, not letting my eyes or affection drift toward the skimpy dress, or the magazine cover at the cash register, or one of the countless other temptations.

When I would feel that tug, that desire to look, I would turn my heart toward the Lord, and say, “Turn my eyes away from looking at worthless things, and revive me in Your way.”

And every time, He did. Every time.

So, are there “worthless things” that are constantly trying to get your attention?

Maybe, like me, they are overtly wicked and will destroy your peace, health, and well-being.
Maybe they’re just harmless distractions that are quietly sapping your strength from God’s perfect will for your life.

If you feel hopeless, if you feel like you have lost control and don’t have any power to say no to whatever that thing is - know that the Grace of God has the power to turn your eyes away from worthless things and to set you free!

Know that Jesus is committed to you experiencing the freedom that He died for you to have!

So take these words to heart, and when you are tempted to look at, or meditate on those worthless things - let God’s word get you back on track. Pray, “Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things, and revive me in Your way.

And you will find the strength to overcome.

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

Monday, March 28, 2016

Thoughts on Psalm 119:36

36 ​​Incline my heart to Your testimonies,
​​And not to covetousness.

“Incline my heart”

That is Grace.

Grace is a real, tangible experience. It’s “the Divine influence upon the heart.”1

What a simple, but overwhelming thought - that God would influence your very heart. Your desires, your attitudes, your love and affection, your identity. The core of who you are.

It’s hard for me to admit, and sometimes hard for me to even relate to who I used to be - but at one time my heart was in fact inclined to covetousness.

By any definition, I was a thief.

I was constantly looking for opportunities to take advantage of vulnerabilities - especially when the theft would be “victimless” in my mind. Downloading music or movies illegally, walking off with items from large organizations that “wouldn’t feel the loss” - covetousness brought thousands of dollars of goods into my possession that I did not earn.

And then I remember the very moment that God inclined my heart away from covetousness and toward His word. I was just reading the Bible one day, and came across this verse::

Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ Phil 3:8

I was astonished at those words. Paul was saying that he lost everything - but he counted it as rubbish. (The King James version says “dung.”)

I looked up, and looked around my apartment at all of the things I had. And it was amazing - suddenly it was as if everything I had ever stolen was highlighted, and everything else was dull and muted.

In that moment, something changed in my heart.

I encountered the Grace of God that influenced who I am fundamentally as a person. It purged out of me the old nature of a thief, and deposited in me the seed of the very Life and nature of Jesus.

God is not so much interested in external results as He is interested in your heart. God knows that if He gets your heart, the behavior will follow naturally, effortlessly.

That is one of the key fundamental differences between the Law and Grace. The Law demands that you change your behavior to please God, but it does nothing about that inward nature, in this example that of a thief. Grace gives you new heart that is free from covetousness, and instead trusts in the provision of a Loving Heavenly Father, and actually leads you to be a giver instead of a taker.

For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:17.

And this marvelous grace is made available to us because of the Cross:

...knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. Rom 6:6

So I say, with the psalmist, “Incline my heart to Your testimonies, and not to covetousness.”

For further reading, see the story of Zacchaeus - a man who was a thief, had an Encounter with the Lord, experienced an inward change of the heart, which was followed by an outward change of behavior. Pay special attention to when Jesus entered Zacchaeus’ home. Was it before his heart changed, or after? The story is found in Luke 19

Footnote 1: See Strong’s definition for grace, (“charis”) here.

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

Monday, March 21, 2016

Thoughts on Psalm 119:35

35 ​​Make me walk in the path of Your commandments,
​​For I delight in it.

A delightful walk.

When Aries and I were first married, the Lord transplanted us out of Texas into a small agricultural town in eastern Colorado. It was an hour drive to the nearest Walmart, and 3 hours to the airport. Not exactly the big-city life we were accustomed to!

There really wasn’t much to do there - and the summer was rather mild - so we found ourselves walking a lot. To nowhere in particular, we’d simply stroll around the neighborhood. We’d look at houses, talk about the Lord, and we spent a lot of time getting to know each other. It is one of my favorite memories. It truly was a delight.

I marvel at the wisdom of the Lord in that time. Looking back, I realize now how vital it was for us to be removed from our respective families in order to form our own connection with each other - a deep bond beyond any other human relationship.

Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife Gen 2:24

And I also find a fascinating similarity between my marriage experience and the description of the early days of mankind:

And they [Adam and Eve] heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day Gen 3:8

Isn’t that beautiful? God created you, and He simply wants to go for a walk with you in the cool of the day. To connect with you, to reveal Himself to you so you can get to know Him. And the path He wants to walk with you on is “the path of His commandments.”

I remember trying to walk my own path - being conformed to this world - when it came to women and relationships.

I remember my heart being broken, ripped out of my chest, when I was cheated on - time and time again. I remember not having enough self esteem to say “enough is enough” and thus continuing in destructive relationships for many years. I remember retaliating, creating an endless cycle of destruction.

And I remember the moment I found out that God had a plan for my life, which included who He wanted me to marry. Somewhere deep inside of me, I said, “I don’t care how long it takes, or what I have to do - I will find out who God wants me to marry, and I will marry her. I’m done doing relationships my way.”

And over the course of the following three years, the Lord took my hand, and led me step by step in His commandments. He walked with me. He corrected me when I veered off the path. He helped me pass my tests. Thank you Jesus.

One of the most significant paths He lead me on was to stop looking for a wife. He showed me that marriage was not man’s idea - it was God’s idea. He initiates it. When He instituted the marriage covenant, He put the man to sleep, and then,

Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. Genesis 2:22

So I “went to sleep” so to speak. I stopped chasing girls - which was a first for me in my entire life, and simply prayed, “Lord, please bring me my wife.”

I then shifted my focus to spending time with the Lord, getting to know Him.And in His time, in His way - He miraculously brought us together, and made it absolutely clear that it was His will for us to marry.

And though marriage hasn’t always been a bed of roses - I have grown in friendship, intimacy, trust and love with a woman of excellence - and I’ve experienced a peace beyond anything I had ever thought possible. And I can attest, by experience, that the ways of God’s wisdom (personified here as a woman) are:

Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. Proverbs 3:17

And to my beautiful bride, I say,

An excellent wife is the crown of her husband Proverbs 12:4

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

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Thoughts on Psalm 119:34

34 ​​Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law;
​​Indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart.


I don’t think it’s possible to overemphasize the importance of that word. It means, “to perceive the intended meaning of.”

And interestingly, it’s not strictly a faculty of the mind. It is possible to read the Bible 12 hours a day for 50 years and never understand it.

That is, apart from God’s grace. Thus the prayer: “give me understanding.”

It is something that God has to give you. There is some kind of spiritual transaction when we relate to God directly in which He illuminates His word. Let’s consider what the New Testament says to this effect.

After Jesus’ death, His disciples were scattered. Understandably. Here they thought that He was the Messiah, come to establish the kingdom of Israel, so they left families, businesses, and more to follow Him. Then He gets himself crucified. To say they were devastated is an understatement.

Imagine devoting your entire life to someone or something - and then having the rug pulled out from under you. It’s not easy to comprehend what they went through. They knew they could be killed also, so they went into hiding.

But Jesus had tried to explain this to them before it happened. Several times. He said to them,

Let these words sink down into your ears, for the Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men.” But they did not understand this saying, and it was hidden from them so that they did not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask Him about this saying. Luke 9:44-45

I mean, how could they not understand that? “I am about to be betrayed into the hands of men.” What could be more simple?

It’s rather ironic - to have difficulty understanding how they couldn’t understand.

But we can put ourselves in their shoes. See, they had been waiting for the Messiah for thousands of years. Isaiah had prophesied hundreds of years prior, and declared that when the Messiah came, He would remain forever:

Of the increase of His government and peace
​​There will be no end,
​​Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
​​To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
​​From that time forward, even forever. Isaiah 9:7

So the image they had in their minds of the Messiah did not connect with the image that Jesus was trying to paint of Himself - that He would die and rise again. They simply did not understand.

That is, until He rose again. After His resurrection, He appeared to the disciples, and explained once again:

Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. Luke 24:44-45

Wow. He opened their understanding, so that they could comprehend the Scriptures.

Even the disciples who walked and talked with Jesus had to have this spiritual revelation of the word of God released to them, otherwise they could not understand why Jesus died and rose again.

We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to some and foolishness to others - but to those who understand, this is the power of God and the wisdom of God 1 Cor 1:23-24 (my paraphrase)

Father, thank You for Your grace. Thank You for teaching me, and for giving me understanding. Holy Spirit, please give me a greater understanding of who Jesus is, of what implications His death and resurrection have in my life, and open my understanding so that I can comprehend the Scriptures.

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

Monday, March 14, 2016

Thoughts on Psalm 119:33

33 ​​Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes,
​​And I shall keep it to the end.

In the Introduction to He, the fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, which is represented in Psalm 119:33-40, we made a connection to the idea of Grace.

So the first thing to notice here in Psalm 119 about Grace is that Grace teaches.

The implication is that life in God is one of learning. God teaches us, and we learn.

Good and upright is the Lord; ​​therefore He teaches sinners in the way.
​​The humble He guides in justice, and the humble He teaches His way. Ps 25:8-9

Isn’t that beautiful? Man-made religion would try and convince you that “You messed up. Therefore you’re a sinner, and God is going to punish you!” But the word of God - even here in the Old Testament - says that God is good, upright, and he teaches sinners how to walk in justice, in His ways.

Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.Luke 5:31-32

In reality, once you have accepted Jesus’ sacrifice for your sins, and believe that God has raised Him from the dead - your old, sinful nature has been put to death, and you have a new inward nature that is no longer a sinner. That is what Jesus referred to as being “born again.” (see John 3:3-5)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ 2 Cor 5:17-18

In other words - when you are in Christ, you are no longer a sinner, but even if you were - God would still be willing to teach you his ways! How much more, now that you are in Christ?!

This learning process, then, leads us to discovering who God really is, who we are in Christ, what we have in Christ, and God’s will for our lives.

Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes,
​​And I shall keep it to the end. Psalm 119:33

Notice the humble yet confident approach to God. “I need You to teach me” indicates humility. But there is no begging. There is a confident expectation that God will teach him His ways.

And notice the apparent promise: “I shall keep it to the end.” This is subtle, but I don’t think this is actually a promise at all. The psalmist is not saying, “You just show me what to do, and I’ll take it from there. I promise I’ll always do whatever you tell me to do.

Instead, he is declaring his absolute confidence in God’s ability as a teacher to be effective in working in his life. In essence, saying, “Lord, teach me. You are such a good teacher, that Your lessons will fundamentally align my character to Yours to such an extent that I will live that way for the rest of my life!

So what is it that God is teaching you right now? Are you aware of His lesson? Have you ever had a dream that you were at school taking a test that you were completely unprepared for? That was the Lord trying to tell you that He is teaching you something; you just weren’t paying attention. And that’s okay, God is a very patient teacher. But you’ll miss out if you don’t tune in.

Lord, thank You that Jesus became sin for me, so that I could become righteous with His righteousness. Holy Spirit, please teach me Your ways - show me who You are, and who I really am, so that I can release the life that is in my spirit, and manifest the love and power of God in my life, my family, and to those you’ve called me to minister to. Help me to understand Your lessons, so that I can cooperate with what it is you are developing in me. I trust You to be my teacher, and thank You, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Thoughts on Psalm 119 - The Acrostic

The Acrostic

Do you remember the alphabet song? You know… “A, B, C, D, E, F, G…. H, I, J, K, LMNOP”…and so on…  “next time won’t you sing with me?”

It’s such a simple song, but so powerful.

I remember the moment when God showed me that Psalm 119 is the alphabet song of the Bible. That revelation had a powerful impact on my life.

It was August of 2006, and I had been praying, “Lord, help me to fall in love with Your word.” A part of me expected to magically have this affection and attraction to the Bible. But instead, I came across Psalm 119. In studying it, I learned a few things about it.

You see, the Book of Psalms was originally a group of songs, meant to be sung. I like to say it’s the soundtrack to the Bible.

And the longest of all these Psalms (in fact the longest chapter in the entire Bible!) is this great Psalm 119. Originally written in Hebrew, each of the first 8 verses all start with the first Hebrew letter “Aleph”. And the next 8 verses (9 through 16) each start with the second Hebrew letter Beth.

To better explain, if it were originally written in English, it might look something like this:

  1. Always blessed are those who walk in God’s ways
  2. Amazingly blessed are those who keep God’s word
  3. Actually, they also don’t sin, but walk in His ways.
  4. Authoritatively You have commanded us to keep Your precepts
  5. Actions according to Your word is what I long for.
  6. Ashamed will I never be so long as I keep your word.
  7. Applause awaits You when I learn Your commands!
  8. At my side You will always be.

  1. Boys can live a pure life. How? By your keeping Your word.
  2. Beating in my chest is a heart that longs for Your commandments.
  3. Buried deep in my heart is the treasure of Your word
  4. Blessed are You, O Lord! Teach me Your statutes!
  5. Boldly I have declared all the judgments of Your mouth.
  6. Better than winning the lottery, I’d rather have Your testimonies.
  7. Bringing to mind Your word at all times, I will contemplate it always.
  8. Being overjoyed at understanding Your statutes, I will never forget them.

And so on, for each letter of the alphabet. There are 22 letters in Hebrew, and each letter has 8 verses, so 22 x 8 = 176 verses.

So when I learned that this was originally a song, and that it was written out by each letter like this (which incidentally is called an “acrostic”), something clicked inside of me.

Deep down, I knew that this was meant to be memorized and sung - even by children! And that in doing so, a great love for the word of God would be developed.

It was for this reason I began memorizing Psalm 119, and eventually wrote music to the entire Psalm. It’s amazing how easy it is to memorize songs, as compared to trying brute-force memory tactics. Again, just think of the alphabet song and how effective that is for kids.

And thus I began a lifelong adventure in falling in love with the Word of God. Thanks for joining me on the journey!

Intro to He

“He” is the fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet: Aleph, Beth, Gimel, Daleth, He…

The number 5 often indicates grace in the Scripture.
Grace is the unearned, undeserved favor of God.
It is the Divine influence on the heart.
It is a supernatural empowerment to do the impossible.
It is the beautifying of the personality, as one is transformed into the very image of Jesus.

Pride says, “I can do all things.”
Grace says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phil 4:13

So as we read through He, we will pay special attention to this topic of Grace, which is noticeably expressed through a humble but confident dependence and reliance on God and His Word.

33 ​​Teach me, O LORD, the way of Your statutes,
​​And I shall keep it to the end.
34 ​​Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law;
​​Indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart.
35 ​​Make me walk in the path of Your commandments,
​​For I delight in it.
36 ​​Incline my heart to Your testimonies,
​​And not to covetousness.
37 ​​Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things,
​​And revive me in Your way.
38 ​​Establish Your word to Your servant,
​​Who is devoted to fearing You.
39 ​​Turn away my reproach which I dread,
​​For Your judgments are good.
40 ​​Behold, I long for Your precepts;
​​Revive me in Your righteousness.

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