Thursday, June 23, 2016

Thoughts on Psalm 119:53

53 Indignation has taken hold of me
Because of the wicked, who forsake Your law.
Indignation. Anger. “A burning heat.”

Have you ever thought that the God of the Old Testament is a God of wrath and anger?

I have. And I’ve had conversations with people who have thought the same.

But anyone who thinks the Old Testament presents God  this way has not carefully read the Old Testament.

Let’s consider God’s dealings with Adam. He messed it up for all of us! Through him, sin entered the world (Rom 5:12) And according to an internet post I saw the other day, “Sin separates God and Man.”

But that’s not exactly true. What it does is separate man from God. But not God from man. That is so important, and it is evident right from the beginning of the Bible.

First, God didn’t say, “in the day you eat of it, I will reject you, strike you with a lightning bolt, and kill you.” What He said was:

“In the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die.” Gen 2:17

This may sound silly, but it’s as if the ocean told a fish, “In the day that you leave me, you shall surely die.” The ocean doesn’t want to punish the fish for leaving it. But the fish cannot survive out of water. It’s simply the consequence for leaving the environment in which it was designed to survive.

In the same way, when Adam disobeyed God, he rebelled and rejected God’s Presence. And that day, he spiritually died. He knew fear for the first time, and hid Himself from the God that he once walked and talked with.

Now let’s consider God’s response. Was God holding a lightning bolt over Adam’s head, just waiting for him to mess up? No. He sought out Adam! God called out to him.

Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?” So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid… and I hid myself.” Gen 3:9-10

Why did God ask “Where are you?” Was He unaware that Adam had sinned? Could He honestly not find him?

No. He knew he sinned. He knew where he was. But He also knew that Adam was afraid.

If you’ve ever approached a dog that is afraid, you know you can’t just walk up to it. You crouch down, stick out your hand, and let it come to you. Otherwise it will run away and never come near you. In a sense, that’s how God was dealing with Adam. He was approaching him very gently.

So God wasn’t holding a lightning bolt over Adam’s head, waiting for him to mess up so He could blast him. And He’s not doing that with you or with me.

Sin causes us to be afraid. But God approaches us. Even in the Old Testament.

It was in the pages of the Old Testament that God spoke to me and told me:
-- how Jesus acts as a High Priest in my life
-- that He wanted me to marry
-- how I would recognize my wife
-- that He has called me to be a psalmist
-- His plans for my parents
-- His plans for my children
-- to leave Oregon last year

And many, many other things God has spoken to me from the pages of the Old Testament.

So I would encourage you, don’t discount the Old Testament. Under grace, we’re not required to “keep all the rules” as means of pleasing God, but it is still God’s Word. It has hundreds of revelations of Jesus, and is still “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:16-17)

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

Monday, June 20, 2016

Thoughts on Psalm 119:52

52 I remembered Your judgments of old, O Lord,
And have comforted myself.

With some of the challenges I have faced lately, I’ve forgotten to do this. What a great reminder.

I love the Old Testament. Not because of the laws and “thou shalt nots.” But because of the stories. The Old Testament, to me, is like a child’s pop-up storybook. You’re reading a story, you turn the page, and then BOOM! Up pops this picture right in your face - and it’s some amazing revelation about Jesus, or His will for your life. God has spoken to me dozens of times from the pages of the Old Testament.

As you read the Old Testament, you should notice how many times God refers to the parting of the Red Sea. If you really pay attention, it’s almost uncanny. There are even Psalms that sing about it.

And there’s also a heavy emphasis in the Old Testament on forgetting the parting of the Red Sea. One example:

And forgot His works
​​And His wonders that He had shown them...
He divided the sea and caused them to pass through; Psalm 78:11,13

They forgot that He had divided the sea for them. What was the result of forgetting?

They turned back in the day of battle
They did not keep the covenant of God
They refused to walk in His law Psalm 78:9-10

So I personally believe that’s what the psalmist is referring to here. Almost as if to say, “I am really having a tough time. But I remember that my forefathers had it even worse - they were slaves in Egypt, and I remember how You judged Pharaoh and his army and delivered us, and I take comfort in the fact that You delivered them and You’ll deliver me.”

Being in the middle of a challenging situation - it’s easy to focus on the difficulties and forget how God has delivered us in the past.

First and foremost, at the Cross. His judgment is that sin has been paid for, and the body of sin is done away with. No matter how bad things get, we can take comfort in that truth.

And then we can comfort ourselves by remembering how many times God has delivered us, saved us, protected us, healed us, forgiven us, and loved us.

Let’s take time to remember, and comfort ourselves.

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

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Thoughts on Psalm 119:51

51 The proud have me in great derision,
Yet I do not turn aside from Your law.
I was once invited to play some music for a Bible study. The night before, one of the strings broke on my guitar. So I figured I would swing by Guitar Center and pick up a set of strings the next day. No big deal.

But that night, I had a dream. In it, I was about to cross the street, when a police officer stopped me and said I had to go down to the corner and cross at the crosswalk. I laughed and said, “Sorry, I’m just taking….” and I couldn’t remember the phrase. So I said, “I’m taking.. You know, Poisson’s equation!”

I woke up and laughed about the dream. I must be a true engineering nerd to be dreaming about equations! But as I thought about it, I remembered that Poisson’s equation is the mathematical principle that describes “the path of least resistance,” which was the phrase I couldn’t remember in the dream.

Through that, I knew God was asking me not to buy those guitar strings. It was so easy for me to go buy them. I had the money, I had the time. And I certainly wasn’t going to go perform for a group of people with only 5 strings on my guitar! But it was the path of least resistance, and God was saying not to take it.

The eleventh hour came, and as I walked up to the door of the house, I still had the expectation that God would provide that missing string. Maybe someone in the house would have some guitar strings for me.

As I started to play, still with only 5 strings, I felt so silly, vulnerable, and embarrassed that my songs would be missing certain key notes. It may not seem like a big deal, but it was a big deal to me. Why couldn’t I just play my guitar with 6 strings? I had the money!

God seldom, if ever, calls us to take the path of least resistance. And as a result, we are often vulnerable to “derision” (that is, contemptuous ridicule or mockery).

Walking with God is not easy. It’s not complicated, it’s quite simple. But it’s not easy.

Think of Jesus. The Son of God, nailed to a Cross. Everyone saying, “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross!” He was put into a very vulnerable situation at the direction of the Father, and as a result was scorned, ridiculed, and mocked.

But then God uses those vulnerable situations. He shows up and does the miraculous.

That Bible study was a very powerful experience with God. I had a vision while I was playing. Several people were deeply touched by God. One woman walked up to me with tears streaming down her face. She took my hands in hers and just looked at my hands.

I’m thinking, “I’m not that good at the guitar… plus I only have 5 strings!” But God touched her heart. Simply because I was willing to subject myself to vulnerability, even if it was in my own mind. I doubt anyone there even noticed I was missing a string.

There are times we may feel foolish, derided - ridiculed and mocked. But if we are willing to dig our heels in and assert in our hearts that “I will not turn aside from Your Word”, we will see the power of God manifest in our lives.

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

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Thoughts on Psalm 119:50

50 This is my comfort in my affliction,
For Your word has given me life.
In verse 49, I wrote about “inside jokes” - those deeply personal and intimate connections that God has with us.

One of the ways God speaks to me is through numbers. I’ll glance at the clock, or license plate, or some other random place, and I’ll see a number that is significant to me, perhaps a special date, or a Scripture reference.

For example, I’ll look at the clock and see 9:15. This is significant to me on two accounts: first, it is the area code of El Paso, my hometown, to which I recently returned. So in seeing that number, in a sense, I hear God saying, “you’re right where I want you to be.” Secondly, there are 915 verses in the book of Proverbs. So again, I hear the Lord say, “I have wisdom for you, to help you.”

Last year, I started seeing a particular number (my birthday) on the clock. Sometimes twice a day. I would see it several days in a row. This went on for months. And then, on my actual birthday, the Lord spoke to me from 2 Kings. He made me a very simple promise.

Simple, but profound. To explain it, I would have to recount the last 7 years of my life. But His promise touched me very deeply.

So last week, I glanced at the clock 3 times in the morning. All 3 times, the numbers were very significant to me. One was my birthday, one was 9:15, and the third was the date that I had my first Encounter with the Lord.

Later that day, my Dad was in a car accident, and has been in the hospital since. The doctor’s report was not favorable, statistically speaking. He is doing better, but it has been one of the most challenging, emotionally draining weeks of my life.

So I think back to that promise the Lord made me last year on my birthday. I think of how He highlights 915 - and that He has wisdom to help me navigate these difficult waters. I think back to how many times God has delivered me, and my loved ones, from so many difficult situations - even from death.

Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the Lord delivers him out of them all. Psalm 34:19

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

The Lord never promised us a storm-free life. But He promised He would be with us in the storm. He promised us comfort in the midst of affliction. Peace in the face of chaos.

This is my comfort in my affliction, for Your word has given me life.

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