Monday, May 30, 2016

Thoughts on Psalm 119:49

49 Remember the word to Your servant,
Upon which You have caused me to hope.

Inside jokes are the best.

You know what I mean - those funny little sayings between you and your best friend, that only the two of you get. Maybe it's a few words that sum up an entire experience you shared together, and by mentioning that phrase, it connects so deeply that not only does no one around you understand, but even if you took an hour to explain it, they still wouldn't get it, because you had to be there.

Ahh, yes, inside jokes are the best.

Did you know that God wants to have inside jokes with you? He wants to share things with you that are so intimate, so profound, that though you explain them to others, it would never connect to their heart the way it does to you.

David sang about this in Psalm 25:

The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him,
And He will show them His covenant. Psalm 25:14

That's right, the Lord has secrets He wants to share with you. Listen to Jesus’ own words:

“To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.” Revelation 2:17

Doesn't that strike you as odd? That He will give you a new name that no one else knows… Except you? Why would you need such a name?

This little story explains it perfectly: a young girl of about 7 or 8 met some new people, and they started calling her by her nickname. She immediately corrected them, “only my Daddy calls me by that name.”

It was a name that was intensely personal and intimate. It was an expression of a deep connection she had with her father.

When I read or sing this verse: “Remember the word to Your servant, upon which you have caused me to hope.” My heart goes to those secrets that the Lord Jesus has shared with me. Promises He has made me that have given me strength through the years when everything looked so bleak I wanted to give up.

Take some time to think about the secrets the Lord has shared with you.

Read His word to hear some more.

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

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Thoughts on Psalm 119:48

48 ​​My hands also I will lift up to Your commandments,
​​Which I love,
​​And I will meditate on Your statutes.

I remember the first time I saw someone lift their hands in a church.

“What on earth are they doing?!”

I grew up in a church that had a very solemn atmosphere. We sang songs, even some upbeat songs, but I was in my mid-20s before I saw someone act like they were actually celebrating anything about God (and it was in a different church).

Lifting hands is actually a very natural expression. Consider, for example:

  • Your favorite sports team scores a goal. What do you do? You shoot your hands up in the air! (And that’s in ANY sport!)
  • A toddler wants to be held by mommy or daddy. What do they do? They reach their hands up. “Pick me up! Pick me up!”
  • Ever been to a pop/rock/rap concert? Throw your hands in the air.

Think of how unnatural it would be to see a last-second winning touchdown in the Super Bowl, and everyone just politely claps their hands while sitting.

In the same way, when we experience the delight of the Word of God - it would be very unnatural to restrain ourselves and just sit politely.

In Acts, a man encountered the Word of God, and:

So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them—walking, leaping, and praising God. Acts 3:8

In Nehemiah, the people had been many years without the Word of the Lord. When it was read to them,

Then all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands... And all the people went their way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that were declared to them. Nehemiah 8:6,12

Look at the response to the word of God!

So in expecting to be delighted by the Word of God, let’s not restrain ourselves unnaturally when it comes, but instead let a heart-felt, genuine praise erupt.

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

Monday, May 23, 2016

Thoughts on Psalm 119:47

47 ​​And I will delight myself in Your commandments,
​​Which I love.

Delight” - Is that the first word that pops into your mind when you think of the Bible?

In today’s mainstream culture, I think the general perception of the Bible is: “Thou shalt not.

That’s why this is such a shocking statement to me. Delight in Your commandments?! Which I love?!

The first time I read through Psalm 119, I remember thinking, “okay, this guy must have known something about the Bible that I don’t know…”

What he knew is that God gave us His word for our benefit, and for our delight. Jesus Himself confirms this:

These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. John 15:11

So if we open the Bible expecting to be beaten over the head with a stick, then we have the wrong expectation, and truthfully a wrong perception about who God is.

But even then, God doesn’t force this delight and joy on us. He doesn’t override our freewill. It’s a choice we have to make. The psalmist says, “I will delight myself…”

So the next time you open your Bible, I would encourage you to cultivate the attitude of delight. Expect to be delighted. Prepare your heart to receive joy. Revisit these two verses and meditate on them.

And ask the Lord to open your eyes to what is so delightful about His word. He’ll answer that prayer.

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

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Thoughts on Psalm 119:46

46 ​​I will speak of Your testimonies also before kings,
​​And will not be ashamed.

Speaking my mind has never been a strength of mine. If there is a controversial subject being discussed, I usually just keep my mouth shut and observe.

But a number of years ago I found myself in a unique and rather uncomfortable situation.

A project I was involved with in college was selected for a conference overseas in the Canary Islands. It was an amazing, “pinch me” kind of experience that I’ll always remember.

One evening I was having supper with several notable people that went on the trip: a professor, the dean of the engineering department, and a Vice President of the university I attended. Also present were three city council women from back home. And me - a fresh college graduate.

Now, it was an election year, and in an apparent effort to break-the-ice (or perhaps an effort to stir up a hornet’s nest) one of the ladies at the table asked who everyone was going to vote for. Everyone at the table groaned, and tried to dissuade her from bringing up such a controversial topic.

Unswayed, she singled out my professor, who was sitting just to my left and asked who he would vote for. A lump came in my throat, and my heart started to race. I knew immediately where this was going. One by one she went around the table clockwise, and one by one everyone gave their answer.

Lastly, it came to my turn. Every single person at the table had given the same answer, and I was about to give a different answer.

So I took a deep breath and said, “he supports abortion - I can't vote for him.”

A few people at the table scoffed, ready to pounce on fresh meat. My professor immediately spoke up, “okay, let's change the subject.” And brought up some trivial topic. I could have hugged him.

It was still very awkward, so I excused myself from the table. As I was walking away, the dean of engineering stopped me and said “Ben, it's very admirable for you to stick to your convictions when everyone at the table was against you.”

I was glad he could appreciate the gravity of the situation. I was about to thank him, when the Vice President chimed in, “yes, even when you're wrong.”

Before I could even process what he said, I looked him right in the eye and I heard these words come out of my mouth: “thank you sir, I'll keep that in mind for when I am wrong.”

I can still picture his face. He just sort of looked up at me, with his mouth hung open, stunned. He didn't have anything else to say to that. So I just went on my way.

You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.” Matt 10:18-20

You never know when you might suddenly stand before a governor or a king and be faced with a difficult decision - whether to hold fast to God’s word, or go with the flow in an effort not to rock the boat or look like a fool in other people’s eyes.

But I hope this short story encourages you that when you find yourself before important people - if you choose to stand on God’s word, He is faithful to keep His promises, and He will not leave you ashamed.

​​I will speak of Your testimonies also before kings,
​​And will not be ashamed.

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

Monday, May 16, 2016

Scripture Song: Psalm 23 - The Lord is my Shepherd

The day I wrote this music, I was homeless.

My wife and I were staying with a family that helped us for a couple months. We had just taken the biggest step of faith in our entire lives, leaving everything we owned behind to pursue God and His calling, but soon found ourselves on the other side of the Red Sea, three days into the wilderness (so to speak).

I had a confidence deep inside of me that said God was leading us. Still, everything in the natural nagged at my logic, reason, and emotions. I was scared, clinging to the promises of God.

I imagine that's how David felt when he was chased out of town by Saul. Anointed to be king, but hunted like an animal - he lived in caves and out in the wilderness until God's word was fulfilled. I personally think that's when he wrote this psalm - when he was at his lowest.

At least, that's when I wrote it. When I had absolutely nothing but God's promises and a faithful wife who stood by me through through the craziest adventure we could imagine. Looking back, I realize how rich I really was. Am.

I had previously wanted to write Psalm 23, but I honestly felt intimidated. How do you write music to the most time honored and famous Psalm of all time? I didn't feel adequate.

But when I truly felt my lowest. When I had no idea which direction to go. I felt so vulnerable and scared, yet filled with vision and hope and purpose - in the tension of that moment, these beautiful, soothing chords began to flow out of my guitar. Soon, the words matched, and God used my weakness to birth this song.

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

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Thoughts on Psalm 119:45

45 ​​And I will walk at liberty,
​​For I seek Your precepts.

Have you ever considered what a blessing roads are? Thank God for roads! Because of roads, you can drive 500 miles in a day. Without roads it would take a month!

Imagine trying to drive a car through soft sand. Or through a thick forest. Or across rocky terrain. Or across a river. Do this the next time you’re on a long drive - look out to the side of the road where the ground has not been developed, and imagine what it would be like to drive across it at 70 miles per hour.

Whatever the terrain is, compared to a road, it would be terrible. If you could drive it at all.

So what’s the point? The point is that roads provide an unprecedented freedom to travel.

The psalmist says, “I will walk at liberty.” In our day and age, I think it might be better understood saying, “I will drive at liberty.”

You can drive anywhere you want to. Just turn the key and go.

But there is an underlying assumption to that freedom, and it’s the road. You’re free to drive anywhere you want - into a lake, off a cliff, through a thick forest - but whenever you get off the paved surface - the smooth path - it’s going to take a hundred times as long to reach your destination, and ultimately you’re going to get stuck.

God’s commandments are like roads.

Teach me Your way, O Lord, ​​And lead me in a smooth path Psalm 27:11
​The way of the upright is a highway. Proverbs 15:19
Make straight paths for your feet Hebrews 12:13

So anyone who thinks “the Bible is just a bunch of rules and restrictions; do’s and don’ts to try and control my life and take away my freedom” is like someone who says, “Roads are just built to control me, to tell me where I can and cannot go. I don’t need roads, I’ll go wherever I want!”

A very foolish thought indeed.

But the psalmist describes a totally different experience - I will walk at liberty, for I seek Your precepts He is saying, in essence, “I am completely free to go wherever I want, because You’ve already built the road to take me there!” What a difference in perspective!

What is even more astonishing, is that God doesn’t expect you to walk the road. He has provided a breathtaking, miraculous machine that is weather-proof, has temperature control, comfortable leather seats, a radio, cruise control, GPS navigation, and travels fifteen times faster than walking!

It’s called Grace.

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

Monday, May 9, 2016

Thoughts on Psalm 119:44

44 ​​So shall I keep Your law continually,
​​Forever and ever.

Forever. It’s an amazing thought, impossible to grasp in the mind.

Have you ever thought about Eternity? What it would be like to live forever?

If you have, you have heard the voice of God (probably without even realizing it), and I’ll tell you why:

Nothing in nature indicates that life or the universe will exist forever.

It’s true. Everything comes to an end.

Wood rots. Metal rusts. Buildings decay. Relationships end. Plants, animals, and people grow old and die. One day even the sun will burn out.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics says that all energy is degrading, and that eventually the Universe will reach a “zero state” of energy which is referred to as “the heat death of the universe.

It is woven into the very fabric of the nature; every source of information that we have from the natural world tells us that there is an end to everything.

With this consistent message telling us, “this is finite; it will end” - how did mankind at any point ever conceive of this concept of “forever”? To answer this, we turn to the word of God:

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11

The fact that you have considered this idea of eternity, of “forever,” means that God has put that very thought into your heart.

That’s right, God spoke to you.

And isn’t it interesting that the psalmist doesn’t say, “I will keep your law for the rest of my life.”?

He recognizes that there is life beyond physical death. Thus he says, “forever and ever.”

God has put eternity into your heart. He’s planted a seed of the concept to create a desire that you would be drawn toward. Why? Because it is His will to fulfill it in your life.

And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. 1 John 2:17

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16

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

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Thoughts on Psalm 119:43

43 ​​And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth,
​​For I have hoped in Your ordinances.

Have you ever seen a flower growing up out of a crack in the sidewalk? Try to keep that picture in mind as we study this verse.

This seems like a strange request to me: “Lord, don’t take Your word out of my mouth.” It almost begs the question, “does God want to take His word out of my mouth?”

He is very clear that He doesn’t want to take His word out of our mouth, dozens of times in the Scripture (Josh 1:8, Psalm 1:2, etc.) So why would the psalmist pray that?

I can’t say that I have a good answer. But it’s been my experience that it can be exceedingly beneficial to puzzle over the word of God. To let difficult questions marinade in your mind, and ask the Lord about them.

When the Scripture doesn’t make sense, when there seems to be a contradiction to another verse or passage, or when it just seems outright weird - we can step into error by assuming a meaning and moving on.

The main message here is this: be at peace with not having the answer to every question at every moment. Put that question before the Lord, and if it’s really important to you, keep asking Him about it. He will bring light and revelation to you.

There are certain questions that are like little fissures in my mind:

  • If Jesus knew that Judas was a thief, why would He choose him to be the treasurer for His ministry?
  • When Jesus cast out all of those demons in the gospels, where did they go? Where are they now?
  • Why was there such a heavy emphasis on the priests examining the lepers in the Levitical law?
  • Why did Ahithophel hang himself just because his advice wasn’t taken?
  • How did Jacob know to peel the rods to make the sheep speckled and spotted?
  • What is righteousness?
  • Why were Jesus’ hands and feet pierced with nails? What’s the significance in that?
  • And why crucifixion? Why wasn’t Jesus electrocuted, or a firing squad, or hanged?

Those are just a few simple examples of actual questions that I have really puzzled over. I have the answer to some of them, and some I am still pondering. Some of the answers have given me an amazing understanding of Jesus’ character; His thoughts, desires, and His heart. But I’m not in a rush to have them answered just for the sake of having answers.

I like to think that those questions, those little fissures in the mind, create a crack in the heart to allow the seed of the Word of God to be planted.

Some of the greatest revelations you will receive of God will come from questions that nag you, gnawing at your assumptions and creating a crack in the concrete thought pattern of your mind.

It will open your heart to the word of truth, and ultimately bring hope, life, and comfort into your life.

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

Monday, May 2, 2016

Thoughts on Psalm 119:42

42 ​​So shall I have an answer for him who reproaches me,
​​For I trust in Your word.

There’s a subtle but powerful message in the second Hunger Games movie. As Katniss was about to step into the arena to fight her peers, her mentor gives her this invaluable advice:

“Remember who the real enemy is.”

There may be people that reproach (shame, disgrace, scorn) you. You may have people attacking your character, questioning your motives, lying about you, and otherwise fulfilling the role of “enemy” in your life. But you will do well to remember who the real enemy is.

My wife and I have recently gone through this.

At the beginning of February, we left the delightful spiritual bubble of Bible College to dive head-first into ministry. We moved to El Paso to help my elderly parents.

And in that process, we have been attacked. We’ve been lied about, lied to, our motives have been questioned, and the good we have attempted to do has been called evil. We have been reproached.

It came full force at us this last week, to the point that we began to turn on each other.

As I laid in bed, tossing and turning, unable to sleep because of the anger that filled my mind, a clear and rational thought pierced through like a ray of sunshine through a rain cloud:
“There must be a breakthrough coming. That explains this overwhelming attack.”

Suddenly, I remembered who the real enemy is. And as I did, I had an answer for him.

Now let’s tie this back into Psalm 119:

Let Your mercies come also to me, O Lord —
​​Your salvation according to Your word.
​​So shall I have an answer for him who reproaches me,
​​For I trust in Your word. Psalm 119:41-42

If you keep thinking that your spouse, your coworker, your boss, your neighbor, or this or that person is your enemy, you will never have an answer to the reproach that faces you. You may cut off a limb, but the root of the problem is still thriving.

The real enemy is called “the accuser of the brethren.” He is the devil. And the answer to his reproach is “Your salvation, according to Your word.” So let’s go to His word and find this salvation.

The New Testament has a breathtaking passage that unveils this truth. (As an aside, the literal meaning of the word “Apocalypse” which we translate as the name of the Book of “Revelation” is “unveiling”):

Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. Revelation 12:10-11

This is so powerful. It’s worth reading a few times. This can change your life.

Try to make the connection to Psalm 119: when salvation comes, you have answer for him who reproaches you. When salvation comes, you have answer for the devil.

Salvation has come! The accuser of the brethren has been cast down! This is past tense!

What remains is for you to answer him - to overcome him by 1) the blood of the Lamb and 2) the word of your testimony. What does this look like?

As I lay in bed, the clarity of the truth opening my eyes, I rolled over and began to answer:

“I declare that the devil is defeated! Jesus has disarmed him and made a public spectacle of him! All of my sins have been paid for at the Cross, and Jesus’ blood has made me a brand new creation. I reject this attack against my family - the devil has no place in me, no power over me, and no unsettled claims against me. Everything has been settled by the Blood of Jesus!”

And so on. I answered for a few minutes, rolled back over, and promptly fell to sleep. In the morning, and over the next couple of days, things began to resolve and even out. It was as if that thick fog that had settled over us was simply blown away by a gentle breeze.

Child of God, you have an answer to him who reproaches you. Put trust in His word, and see His salvation.

Let Your mercies come also to me, O Lord —
​​Your salvation according to Your word.
​​So shall I have an answer for him who reproaches me,
​​For I trust in Your word. Psalm 119:41-42

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