LOOK BACK WITH GRATITUDE
When David wrote these words, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:2), he was listing so many things that God had done for him. Here is a few:
Now, you add to this list benefits the Lord has poured out on your life. I thank the Lord for…
Then you can end your list with, “Bless the Lord, O my soul!” (103:22).
By ending 2019 with an attitude of thanksgiving, you are more likely to start 2020 with gratitude. This is the mark of someone who is also growing in worship because you are learning the beauty of quiet time with the Lord. I pray you will be more and more filled with joy in His presence!
TAKE TIME TO THINK
In a world that is full of hurry, we find it very difficult to stop all activity to think, ponder or meditate. Sadly, we forget that times of quiet can produce the richest treasures. Beside reducing anxiety and fear, taking time to think on the Word of God strengthens our relationship with God, increases our understanding of Scripture and provides wisdom.
David said, “I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways” (Psalm 119:15). It was a way of shutting the door against distractions and focusing his mind on that which would guide his life — God’s Word and His ways
Timothy lived in a world of confusing ideas and those who were promoting immoral life styles. It is no different today, only more visible. It was critically important that Timothy “be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” Why? The culture of his time requires being a “good soldier…an athlete [that] competes according to the rules…[and] a hard-working farmer. To work out these principles in his life, it would be necessary to “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything” (2 Timothy 2:1-7).
In a time when morals are being devalued and biblical principles considered useless, it is critical to take time to ponder the Word of God. Solomon says, “The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things” (Proverbs 15:28). The word “ponder” means to “give serious thought” to something. The wicked give no thought to their words.
If you try to run your life at the speed of this world, you will miss the quiet moments that give understanding, wisdom and divine guidance.
Can you imagine starting each day with feeling totally satisfied? Is this even possible? Is this something money can buy or some human organization can give us? With most of us, every day is a challenge as we face jobs, financial issues, health concerns, marriage and family problems. Satisfaction for most of us seems out of reach and almost impossible.
With all the challenges Moses faced, he knew where to go for satisfaction. “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days” (Psalm 90:14). That was the way Moses wanted to start his day. He wanted “complete contentment” from the moment he woke up so that would characterize his day, and every day.
As you and I start a new year, let’s make our days different by starting each one with the Lord. Moses knew that God’s “steadfast love” was what he needed. It is His “unfailing kindness and loyal love” toward us that we need most. As you and I spend time in the morning reading Scripture in the presence of the Lord, He will pour this love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5).
This will take a “quiet time with the Lord” from a drudgery to refreshing delight. No longer will reading the Bible be a chore, but a pleasure. I want your tomorrow to start with complete satisfaction in the Lord so each day that follows will start the same way. Then, we will “rejoice and be glad all our days!”
ONE HEART AND ONE WAY
Another problem we often find in ourselves that hinders reading the Bible and time with the Lord is a divided heart. We try to be loyal to different masters. Jesus made it clear; “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:24).
Again, we turn to the heart of David who realized this problem in Psalm 86:11 “Teach me Your way, O Lord, that I may walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name.” The word “unite” means to “make or declare as one or to be alone with.” There could not be any other person or thing to hold David’s attention and loyalty. Every other relationship and activity in life must be secondary and subservient to his relationship with the Lord.
God promised Israel to give “them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them” (Jeremiah 32:39).
When our heart is made one with the Lord and He is the only one who has our attention, reading the Bible and time with Him becomes a pleasure and joy (see Psalm 16;11), not a burden. I challenge you to get alone with the Lord, as we close out this year, and ask Him to remove those things in your heart and life that have divided your loyalty. Such a radical request demands divine power. You cannot do this on your own.
How you respond to this challenge will have a direct impact on your marriage, family, church, ministry, work, etc.
EYES THAT SEE WONDERFUL THINGS
One of the common excuses for not reading the Bible daily is, ‘I just don’t understand it.’ This is an understandable problem, and if you are one of those persons who feels that way, I personally can sympathize. I was just like you at one time and there are many who share your problem.
David must have felt the same way at times. He makes this request of God; “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” (Psalm 119:18). Along with this request, He asked five times in this Psalm; “give me understanding” (34, 73, 125, 144, 169). He had a desire to see with understanding what the Word of God was saying to him and asked God to help him see.
As Paul sat in his prison cell, he prayed for new believers and churches with fervent longing; “having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians 1:18). He wanted them to see in God’s Word what he could see because it is so rich! No one will understand what you value and treasure unless they see it like you do. The same is true with Scripture.
We want you to be like the Ethiopian Eunuch when he was reading the Prophet Isaiah. “And he said, “How can I [understand], unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him” (Acts 8:31).
Seeing “wondrous things” in Scripture begins with desire. Be like David and ask God to help you see through the eyes of the Holy Spirit. “He will teach you all things” (John 14:26).
BEND MY HEART
So often we come across those who say they cannot find or make time each day to spend in quiet with the Lord and His Word. They are just too busy. I could simply respond and say that it is a problem of setting the right priorities in your life. But there are deeper issues.
David makes a very wise request of God in Psalm 119:36; “Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain.” The word “Incline” means to “bend or stretch out” as if to turn his heart in a different direction than it naturally goes. He was aware that his heart had a tendency to go after things that would only benefit himself — they were “selfish” desires and pursuits.
By asking God to “Incline, bend or stretch out” our hearts, we are calling on Him to change the desires that lie at the center of our being. Paul realized how strong our natural bents are. He says, “I am of the flesh…for I do not understand my own actions…I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing that I hate” (Romans 7:14-15). Can you identify that tendency in yourself?
David was afraid of where his heart would lead him; “Do not let my heart incline to any evil” (Psalm 141:4). He was very earnest with God in both of these Psalms about God being the One who ‘bent or stretched’ his heart in the right direction.
Not having time to spend with the Lord, even a short time, is a heart matter. If you are struggling with this, would you stop what you are doing right now and ask God to bend your heart toward Him. Spending time in His Word will no longer be a duty, but a delight and pleasure (see Ps.16:11).
CHRISTMAS IS OVER! - OR IS IT?
After remembering the birth of Jesus, the humble circumstances of His coming to earth, and the involvement of ordinary people in one of the greatest events of human history, how have our hearts changed toward Him? By New Years day, most of the decorations come down and are put away, relatives and friends have returned home and back to their regular schedules. Am I the same?
There is one condition that remains with every people group around the world; the need of the human heart. As Jesus began His ministry, He had a very simple message; “Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). The human need is not solved by ‘man-made religion.’ Every individual must face the fact that there is a condition in the heart caused by sin, and the only way to reverse its consequences is through genuine repentance.
Repentance in simple terms is admitting that God is right and holy; I am wrong and unholy. His kingdom has come to me where I am, exposed my sin, and yet provided a means of removing my sin through the sacrifice of Jesus. Then He freely forgives so I am free from sin and its effects. Jesus’ birth was only the beginning of a thirty-three-and-a-half-year journey that ended in His crucifixion, burial, resurrection and ascension. The power of His kingdom accomplished our freedom at unspeakable cost, not just at His birth.
Those of us who know this freedom have a responsibility to tell others so they will know how to be free. As Paul thought about this responsibility, he told the Roman believers; “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?” (Romans 10:14–15). We must ask ourselves these questions and then act on what we have been given by God.
JUST ORDINARY PEOPLE
As I think of the birth of Jesus and the people God announced His coming to, none of them were people of influence or power. There was no social or economic status with Joseph and Mary. Why would God choose them to be the parents of Jesus? The angels appeared to shepherds who were on the bottom rung of the Palestinian social ladder. The twelve disciples were ordinary people; fishermen, tax collectors, and other occupations that were of little importance in the Jewish tradition. Jesus could work with them because they were ordinary.
Though Paul was highly educated and considered a success in religious circles, he makes a profound statement; “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:26–29).
Jesus confounded the wise and religious people who thought they were important. Why? “To shame the wise…to shame the strong…so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” He came to the lowly, hurting, the poor and the outcasts of society because He knew they would receive Him. “He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him” (John 1:11).
We often find it very difficult to reach out to people who are not like us, with the gospel and love of Jesus. But that is exactly what Jesus did. As you are praying for some unreached people group (see yesterday’s blog), it may be that God is asking you to “GO” to someone not like you, ordinary people, with the Good News of Jesus. You may not know how to “GO.” Just ask God to show you.
SPECIAL PRAYER ON A SPECIAL DAY
In just over one day, Christians around the world will be celebrating Christmas, the birth of our wonderful Savior. We will gather part of our family in our home for a meal and for giving gifts to each other. Each year this day comes around, we try to focus our thoughts and attention on the beauty of Jesus our Savior. We all have different traditions as ways of celebrating, but it is important that we go beyond our traditions to purposely making Jesus the center of this day.
I want to challenge you this year to do something very different. Go to the Joshua Project website (see link below) or use the “Unreached (people group) of the Day” on the right side of this page.” Take time with family and friends to pray for this people that the gospel will reach them in 2020.
There are over 7,000 “unreached people groups” around the world. Many of them are scrolling across the top of the Joshua Project website page. Take others and ask each person around your table to pray for one that is listed. If every believer would do this with sincere desire, there is no doubt in my heart that God will hear and answer. The Great Commission and Matthew 24:14 would be quickly completed.
Jesus came “to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). Will we bring them the Good News?
This is a very interesting title given to Jesus by the writer of Hebrews. I will give you the context.
“We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 6:19–20).
Besides knowing that “it is impossible for God to lie…[and] having strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us” (6:18), this “sure and steadfast anchor” reminds us that Jesus has gone into the presence of God for us. As a “forerunner” He went ahead of us in order to show the way “or to pioneer” on our behalf so that we could benefit.
Why does the author add that phrase in describing Jesus as “a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek”? Part of the answer is in the next chapter; “He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever” (7:3).
There is no human limitation to this “forerunner.” As a priest, our “forerunner” is always representing us before God. Near the end of chapter 7 we read; “Consequently, He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (7:25). There cannot be as strong an assurance for our faith and walk in this life as we have in these verses. I trust you will see what a mighty Savior we have.
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