Friday, November 28, 2014

God's Word as Our Way of Escape

When John Crawford was in the Navy, he often caught sight of a game called anchor pool that the fellow sailors played. Each player would bet what time the ship would drop anchor, and throw in some money to back his claim. The person closest to the time that was recorded in the logbook gained all the money put into the pot. With nothing to do, this game seemed appealing, and John did want to please his fellow sailors by being a good sport. His friends encouraged him to join, and it seemed harmless enough. But he knew his friends wanted his money more than his company, and the lust involved with gambling was not godly or something that Jesus would be pleased with.

As the temptation grew, John knew he must solidify himself against the temptation. And he knew just the thing; the Word of God. He choose to steel himself with Proverbs 13:11, which says, “Wealth gained by dishonesty will be diminished, But he who gathers by labor will increase,” and Proverbs 23:5: “Will you set your eyes on that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; They fly away like an eagle toward heaven.” These verses fortified Mr. Crawford against the momentary temptations, but they also proved valuable to him throughout his life, helping to establish a pattern of integrity and honesty.

Memorization provided John with the tools he needed to fight back sin. He used the Word of God to strike the temptations of evil in his own life over the head with a sledgehammer. Whenever they popped up, he just bopped them back down again. In this manner, he was strengthened in Jesus Christ and able to have an effective ministry.

Memorizing God’s Word is the tool that keeps us from sin. Here's today's challenge: What is a sin that you struggle with? Lately, I've been struggling with thoughts occupied on things other than the Person of Jesus Christ --too many. Now, I want you to find a verse or passage that reminds you to do the right thing. For myself, I choose 2 Corinthians 10:5: "casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ." It may be helpful to choose a couple passages. Think of God's Word as the ammunition you can use to cripple the devil and your flesh. Now you need to hide God's Word in your heart. Write it on a note card and carry it with you wherever you go, reading it whenever you have a chance. 

Then, as the temptation creeps in, fight against it using the Word of God. Remember, it is your offensive weapon; your sword against the flesh and the devil. As in the case of John Crawford, God's Word is the tool we need to fight back sin. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it." God's Word is one of the ways of escape that God has provided for His children. 

As Psalm 119:11 says, "Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You." Let us hide God's Word in our heart, so that we might not sin against our Holy and Just God.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Treasures in Heaven

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." ~Matthew 6:19-21 

Where are you laying your treasures?  Take a look at the way you spend your time.  Is it focused upon yourself or focused upon earthly things?  Today, resolve to use your time and talents to lay up treasures that will never be destroyed.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Prayer is a Gift

"Hear my voice according to Your lovingkindness;
O Lord, revive me according to Your justice.”
~Psalm 119:149

When I read this verse during my study of Psalm 119, the Lord reminded me of something that I had been learning through my study of Daniel. This week, we were asked to memorize Daniel 9:18-19: “O my God, incline Your ear and hear; open Your eyes and see our desolations, and the city which is called by Your name; for we do not present our supplications before You because of our righteous deeds, but because of Your great mercies. O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and act! Do not delay for Your own sake, my God, for Your city and Your people are called by Your name.” Notice here that Daniel did not come to the Lord in prayer because of his righteous deeds, but because of the Lord’s great mercies.

It is not because of any righteousness of our own that we cry to Him. We should not expect Him to answer us because we are worthy of it, but because of His great mercy.

Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible puts it a hundred times better than I could:
“Not according to his own merits and deserts, or works of righteousness done by him, for the sake of which he did not present his supplications to God; nor according to his love to him, which often waxed cold, and he in a poor lukewarm frame of spirit; but according to the lovingkindness of God, which is always the same, and which is a great encouragement to faith and hope in prayer; that since God is gracious and merciful, kind and bountiful, plenteous in mercy, and ready to forgive, on a throne of grace, and full of love, yea, love itself, invariably the same, he will hear, and saints shall find grace and mercy to help them in time of need”

1 John 4:10 adds, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” It is not because we have loved God; indeed our love is so unfaithful that it merits rejection and death. But God’s love is so great toward us that He hears our cries and answers our prayers.

We can boldly approach the throne of grace not because we have earned the right, but because we have a God who loves to bestow His gifts upon His children. As Ephesians 3:12 says, “In Him and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” It is by Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross that we can approach God with freedom and confidence. Prayer is not a right, but a gift.

Our righteous works are as filthy rags. By their merits, we deserve nothing. We have no strength in and of ourselves. Rather, through our prayers we must throw ourselves down before God, pleading for His undeserved mercies.

Remember as you come before the thrown of grace today, that you have no right to be there. It is only by God’s grace and through His mercies that you have the privilege of speaking to the King of kings and Lord of lords. Let this knowledge transform your prayers, taking the focus off of you and onto Him.

Monday, November 17, 2014

God's Word Still Applies

“Concerning Your testimonies, I have known of old that You have founded them forever.” ~Psalm 119:152

Many refuse to read the Word of God, saying “it’s too old” or “it’s outdated.” They believe the messages found therein no longer apply to mankind. But that’s not what David thought.

The “testimonies” that he devoted himself to were given the Israelites on Mt. Sinai. Back then, the Jews were an uncivilized group, just wandering around. In David’s time, they had a king; they had beautiful palaces, and great places of learning. Surely the messages given to those newly freed slaves no longer applied to such a cultured group of people. However, through the diligent study of God’s commandments, David had been long ago convinced. He knew that the words that he read were not passing or temporary enactments, but eternal laws, decreed and laid down forever. God’s Word had proven itself true to him over and over, despite the years between its writing and his reading.

David’s son Solomon studied the Word diligently as well, and this is his conclusion: “I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him” (Ecclesiastes 3:15).

Numbers 29:13 reflects on the character of God: “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” What God has said still holds true today, because God’s Word never changes. He cannot lie, and what He promises He will fulfill, no matter if He promised it yesterday or three thousand years ago. We can stand on His Word and its applicability to our lives, just as much as to the lives of the original audience.

As if in confirmation, Psalm 111:7-8 adds, “
The works of His hands are verity and justice; all His precepts are sure. They stand fast forever and ever, and are done in truth and uprightness.”
We have no reason to doubt. Even today we can trust that the Word has a message for our heart. Because it is living and active, the Spirit uses it even in this modern generation to convict and teach. It still has the power to transform lives. According to Barn’s Notes on the Bible, “They are based on eternal principles of right; they will never be changed. Such a conviction will do much to keep the soul steady and firm in the trials and uncertainties of life. Whatever may change, God's law does not change; whatever is new, that is not new; whatever will vanish away, that will remain.”

May we run to the Word, trusting that He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. May we glean from His testimonies, remembering that it applies just as much today as it did when it was written. Let us thank our God that He gave us a treasure written especially with our generation in mind. What an amazing God we have!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Transformed Minds

“My zeal has consumed me, because my enemies have forgotten Your words.”  ~Psalm 119:139

I believe that God’s Word transforms us from the inside out.  As we read of God’s mercy and love, some of that same mindset rubs off on us.  The more we dig into the mind of Christ by studying His words, the more like Him we become.  We subconsciously begin to adopt the same mindset.  We've heard it said “show me your friends and I’ll show you your future” (or something like that).  It’s the same with the Scriptures.  If we make Jesus Christ our best friend and spend as much time as possible in the Word, we will be transformed.  As we renew our minds, with the Scriptures, our thoughts, actions, and words will be changed.

2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”  Where can we see the glory of God manifested?  God’s Word!

Colossians 3:10 says something similar: “And have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator.”  This new self is renewed (changed, transformed) by the knowledge of God.  Where perhaps could this knowledge be attained?  The Scriptures, of course!
Now, because of the fall, our minds need transforming.  We inherently hate those who hate us.  Even my three-year-old sister (well, three at the time) understands this.  A young man got a little annoyed with her, because she kept nagging him. After that, she kept saying “I don’t want to sit next to him” and just generally had an attitude of dislike.  That’s human nature.

But to show love for someone who hates us, that’s from God.  In his everlasting mercy and compassion, God loves everyone, both friends and enemies.  Romans 5:8 demonstrates God’s immaculate love: “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Indeed, as 1 John 4:8 says, God is love!

Thus, as David spends time with God, through the Word and prayer, his mind was transformed.  His thoughts began to be aligned to the will of God.  And it wasn’t that he wished the best for his enemies (as Psalm 119:139 says) because he knew it was the right thing to do.  He genuinely wanted them to know God.  In fact, he was zealous for this.  His heart was burdened with sorrow because these people had forgotten God’s Word.  Remember, this wasn’t something he just did naturally.  Rather, he adopted this mindset because of the many hours spent in the Word of God.

You and I too have fleshly ideas and perceptions.  Our minds are set on ourselves.  We think of the things of the earth.  We’re focused on the temporary.  We need a different mindset.  As Christians, we must strive to think differently than this world.  Indeed, Romans 8:8 says, “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” 

Philippians 2:5 lays the standard: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.”

But because of our fleshly nature and sinfulness, we keep turning our focus back to ourselves.  We keep turning our focus back to ourselves and back to worldly things.  And, as Romans 8:6 says, this leads to death.  We need God’s grace and His Spirit to transform us, using the Scriptures.  We must, as Paul said,  Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:2-3).  In order to do this, we must be reading the Scriptures.  If we want to become like Christ, daily Bible reading is imperative.  This is the key to unlocking a life free from worry, pride, anger, and bitterness.  We must be diligent studiers of the Word.  We must let it transform us.  Are you?  Are you and I adhering to the command to “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2).  Open the book!

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Refreshing Word

"We can be tired, weary, and emotionally distraught, but after spending time alone with God, we find that He injects into our bodies energy,  power, and strength." ~Charles Stanley

Will you and I turn to the sparkling fountain of life when our strength fails us?  Will we turn to the Word of God to refresh our weary souls?  Turn to Him my friends, and watch as you are revived by the power of the Scriptures!

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Ardent Pursuit

Psalm 119:131 says, “I opened my mouth and panted, for I longed for Your commandments." 
David eagerly seeks the Word of God.  Some men lust after women.  Others after food.  The psalmist fervently desired the Word of God.  It is his one and only longing.  It fills his thoughts and consumes his mind.  He is so obsessed, if you will, with the Scriptures, that he cares about nothing else.
I know it sounds little bit extreme, but I believe this is how it should be with us.  If you think about it, there is nothing more worthy of our desire.  The only thing that will satisfy us fully is the Word of God and the God of the Word.  These are the only things that will bring us life.  God’s Word guides and instructs.  It leads us on the path of righteousness.  Really, it is more valuable than much gold.  Don’t you think that we should be focused on something valuable, and worthy?  What is more worthy than the Word of God (by Word here, I mean both the inspired Word of God given to us in the Bible, and the person of Jesus Christ, who, as John describes, is the Word)?
We too should ardently pursue the Word, by reading and meditating on it daily.  By it we will grow and mature in our faith with the Lord.  As 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is 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.  Beyond that, we will also learn about the God of the Word.  As a result, His praise will flow from our lips, as sparkling water from a fountain.
Although, because we live in this world, we will not be able to spend all our time with the Word, we should be able to devote our free time to its pursuit.  How much time do we spend on the internet?  How about the television?  These things do not satisfy us, they are not worthy of our pursuit.  Maybe we should consider trading them for something that will really edify us: God’s Word.  And even when we don’t have the time to physically sit down and read something, we always have the verses we’ve memorized available for meditation.  Whenever we find ourselves with a free moment, let us spend it with eternity in mind.  May we too open our mouths and pant with longing for the Word of God.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Life-Giving Power of the Word Part 2


God's Word is our spiritual food, having the power to sustain us and revive us, in the same way that the physical food that we eat gives us strength.

Jesus compared God’s Word to bread: “But He answered and said, ‘It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God”’” (Matthew 4:4).  Although some days we may not want to read God’s Word, I believe it is an important discipline, because it gives us life. How many times to you skip out a meal simply because you don’t feel like eating? Or how many times do you forgo feeding yourself because you are too busy to take time away? Oh, you may have missed a meal or two, but you usually make it up with snacks or an extra big meal later. It should be the same way with the Word of God. Because of the nutrients that it gives us, we should not let anything distract us from it.

Paul writes in 1 Peter 2:2 about how God’s Word is to us like milk: “as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.”  Have you ever watched a hungry baby? She will cry, throw fits, and refuse any consolidation until she gets her food. Her single-minded purpose is that food. So strong is her desire for it that it is her only waking occupation. This is how it should be with us as Christians. We should desire these life-giving nutrients, as a deer pants for the water, not giving up until we achieve our purposes. We need the Word of God for our very life. Yet how often do we miss opportunities to draw from its sparkling fountains!

The word “desire” in the Greek means “to have a yearning desire for” or “to long after.” Our heart should be drawn to the Word, in such a way that we do not want to leave it. It should be our passion. When we desire something, it is constantly on our thoughts, and every time we are not with it, we wish we were.

When comparing God’s Word to the food that we eat, it is important to remember that just as we chew and digest our physical food, we must properly digest the Word of God. By meditating on the Word and memorizing it, we can really glean from Scripture and receive the nutrition it can give us. It must become part of us. Then, as it nourishes us, it will change us, the same way our food can change our physical appearance (just picture in your head the starving children in Africa, and you’ll see what I mean).

So, if we were to measure our intake of the Word of God by food standards, would you be healthy –or starving? Do you long for the Word the way a baby longs for its mother’s milk? Are we taking the time to feed our spiritual body, which will live forever? Let us examine our lives in light of these words, and choose life.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Life-giving Power of the Word

"My soul clings to the dust; revive me according to Your word." ~Psalm 119:25

This verse reminds us of the life-giving power of the Word. To me, someone who won't read God's Word is like someone who refuses to breath. If you take a short run, you always pause after the end to catch your breath. If you carry a heavy chest of drawers up the stairs (which I have had to do more times than I can count), you always stop at the top to breathe. Never once have I heard anyone skip breathing, with the statement, "I don't need to breath, I can live on my own" or "I simply don't have the time to breathe" or "I'm to lazy to breath today, I'll make up for it tomorrow." Why do we choose to continue breathing? Because it is necessary for life.

We must be reading and meditating on the Word because we need it for survival as Christians. Some may laugh it off, saying that they've never seen anyone up and die because they didn't read God's Word. However the death of a believer is often spiritual rather than physical. And it is almost always slow and barely even noticeable. We see many young people leaving the church today. I believe part of the reason is because they have failed to acknowledge the source of life and drink from its fountains. They have not absorbed and digested the nutrients found there through Scripture memory and memorization.

What about you? Are you becoming lukewarm in your love for the Lord? Have you acknowledge the true source of life? You feed your physical body three (or more) times each day, and yet this body will only last for a century at most. How much more important than to glean nutrients and life-giving power form the Word, to feed your spiritual body, which lives forever?

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Prevailing Prayer

"Prevailing prayer takes the Christian to the mountain and enables him to cover heaven with clouds of blessings, and earth with floods of mercy.  Prevailing prayer lifts the Christian and shows him his inheritance and transfigures him into the likeness of his Lord.  If you would like to reach to something higher than ordinary groveling experience, look to the Rock that is higher than you, and gaze with the eye of faith through the window of consistent prayer.  When you open the window on your side it will not be bolted on the other." ~Charles H. Spurgeon