Tuesday, May 24, 2016

How to Look to Jesus --Part 2

As we continue studying what it means to look to Jesus, I want to give you one thought to ponder as you go about your day.  We'll add it to the list of ways to remember Him that we began last Wednesday.  We've already looked at reading God's Word and meditating on the Scriptures, now let us examine a third way we can refocus the eyes of our heart upon the risen Savior.

3. Praise and Worship

This is so important!  The Psalmist speaks often of praising the Lord, and it was clear the effect it had upon his life.  His thoughts were continually turned upon the King of kings.

Praising God is something that we should do every moment of every day! We can worship Him literally anywhere.  Doing the dishes, taking a shower, driving to work each day.  It doesn't take much to praise Him.  Singing songs is a wonderful way to bring glory to Him through praise, but it isn't necessary.  Take time to adore Him with verses of Scripture you have memorized, or just thoughts that come to your mind concerning His character and goodness.

Direct your admiration towards HIM, through times of worship and praise.

I have found it especially wonderful (and richly rewarding) to set-apart a time in my day to praising God.  A time where I leave the noise of the world behind, get out some worship music or open my Bible to the Psalms.  In those moments I allow my heart to give way to deep and heartfelt praise.  I encourage you to do this along with me.  Let every breath praise the Lord!

This is not only something we should prioritize in private, but also in public.  Ephesians 5:19 reminds us, "Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart."  Just imagine with me for a moment what would happen if we actually followed this verse.  What if we really obeyed this Scripture?

Oh, let everything that has breath praise the LORD!

Psalm 117:1-2:
"Praise the Lord, all nations! 
Extol him, all peoples! 
For great is his steadfast love toward us, 
and the faithfulness of the Lord 
endures forever. 
Praise the Lord!"

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

How to Look to Jesus

You may remember last Wednesday, when we looked at Peter's adventure on the water, where he looked straight at Jesus and had faith.  But when he took his eyes off of his Savior and gazed around him at the wind and the waves, his faith faltered.  I've been thinking a lot lately about just how important looking to Jesus really is.  But today, instead of diving into all the reasons why we should look to Jesus, I want us to think about some practical ways we *can* look to Jesus.

You see, saying "Remember Him" or "Turn your eyes upon Jesus" can sound good in theory, but I've found they can be rather hard to accomplish in practice.  So just what does these phrases mean? And how can we, on a practical, everyday basis, live with our eyes fixed upon the King of kings.

I made a little list in my journal, and would like to share some of those things here with you today.

1. Read the Scriptures  

Gloria K. made a good point in a comment she left on last weeks' article.  She said, "I'm convinced the only way to keep our eyes on Jesus is to constantly immerse ourselves in His Word."  This is so true.  I have found in my own life that when I make the effort to spend time at His feet in the Word each morning, my thoughts are more directed upon Him throughout the day.  But when I sleep in late, or get up and do other things, my day is more likely to be distracted and not centered upon Christ.

Another thing I have found to be helpful is to read the Scriptures throughout the day.  Have verses pasted around your house, on your computer/phone, in your school books--wherever you will see them often.  Even just pausing for 15 minutes during your lunch break to read the Scriptures can help your mind refocus on Him.  Imagine with me for a moment what would happen if we took every spare moment of our free time and spent it in the pursuit of God's Word--whether through reading it, or through meditating on it.  Wouldn't the results be amazing?!  Maybe, just maybe, you should try it.  =)

Now, it's one thing to read God's Words, and it is another thing to study the Scriptures.  When you spend focused time (at any point during the day) to study what God's Word has to say, making notes or looking up other verses to support it, etc. you will find the message sticking in your head in a much greater way.

2. Meditate on Verses from Scripture

I have found this to be one of the most effective ways to fix my thoughts upon the Lord.  When we meditate on verses of a nature that pertains to His character or what He has done for us, our thoughts are purposefully placed upon Him.  Let me tell you all something, this turning our eyes upon Jesus thing, it doesn't happen subconsciously.  It takes purposeful, planned out effort if you want to set your mind on things above.  It takes hard work, but in the end it is more than worth it. (P.S. I have found though that the more you purposefully look to Jesus, the more naturally it becomes. After a while you will find yourself inherently focusing on Him.

So meditating on specific verses of Scripture that talk about Who He is is a really purposeful way to fix the eyes of your heart upon Him.

Not only is it important to meditate on a particular verse or passage, it is also a good idea to look at the broader scope of things and remember the message of the gospel.  Reply what happened on the cross in your mind--while you're on a car ride, doing the dishes, or falling asleep--redeem the time when your mind is otherwise unoccupied to remember the cross and what Jesus did for you there.
Sadly, that's all we have time for today, but I encourage you to keep thinking about the practical ways we can fix our eyes upon Him. You're welcome to share with me in the comments or contact page; I would love to hear! I have more thoughts on this subject that I hope to share with you sometime soon!  Until then, may your eyes be ever fixed upon the face of your King.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Fix your Gaze Upon Jesus

Matthew 14:22-33:

"22 Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. 23 And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there. 24 But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary.

25 Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. 26 And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear.

27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.”

28 And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”

29 So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. 30 But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!”

31 And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.

33 Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.”


I've been thinking about this story lately.  Peter saw his Lord coming and immediately was filled with great faith.  He stepped out on the water.  Notice at this point where his eyes are looking.  Toward Jesus.  But then what happened?

He took his eyes off of Jesus.

Oh my, the winds are great.  Oh, and the waves!  And as he began to look around him, his faith and his footsteps faltered.  He began to look around him at the things of this world, and immediately he lost his faith.  He lost his hope and sense of security.  Suddenly the wind and the waves seemed greater and more powerful than anything else.

How often are we like Peter?

We see God and we have great faith.  Our gaze is fixed steadily upon Him and we believe anything is possible.  But then (typically in our generation, this happens slowly and unconsciously) our gaze turns downward.  Look at those waves.  The wind blows so fiercely!  Our problems seem so big, and for some strange reason, our God seems so small.

We have lost our faith.  Why?  Because we turned our eyes off of Jesus.

My friends, how easy it is to allow our gaze to falter off of the King of kinds. The natural inclination of our flesh is to look at the things of this world.  But we must reject this inclination.  We must fix our eyes upon Jesus.

This is easy to think about conceptually, but what about practically?  How can we turn our eyes upon Jesus each and every day of our lives?

I've been thinking about this question a lot over the past few days, but I would like to give you a chance to think.  How do we fix our gaze upon Jesus?  You are welcome to share your thoughts below in the comments section or share privately through the "Contact" page.  I'm looking forward to hearing from you!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

God's Word is our Great Reward --Part 2

Last Wednesday we began to examine the second part of Psalm 19:11.  This is the last verse in the study we have been doing on Psalm 19:7-11.  Let's review the line: 

“And in keeping them [God's commands] there is great reward.”

If you remember, we discussed the Hebrew word for keep (shamar). We also looked at the great reward that is awaiting us in heaven.

On top of all that though, we will also be rewarded here in this earth, although the measure is very small in comparison to the glory awaiting us.  Still, it is comforting to remember that our sacrifice for obedience does not go unnoticed and unblessed in this world.  James 1:25 grants us a small picture of what this means: 

"But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does."

Joshua 1:8 also reminds us that if we will be careful to observe and do all the things written in the Scriptures, we will be prosperous and successful wherever we go.

I like what Thomas Brooks said,

The joy, the rest, the refreshing, the comforts, the contents, the smiles, the incomes that saints now enjoy, in the ways of God, are so precious and glorious in their eyes, that they would not exchange them for ten thousand worlds. 
Oh! if the vails, [Gratuities, presents] be thus sweet and glorious before pay-day comes, what will be that glory that Christ will crown his saints with for cleaving to his service in the face of all difficulties, when he shall say to his Father, "Lo, here am I, and the children which thou hast given me." Isaiah 8:18. If there be so much to be had in the wilderness, what then shall be had in paradise!

My friends, we cannot fully realize the benefits of keeping God's Words until we actually go out and do it.

The Motive

But honestly, although this is our reward, it is not our motive.  We keep God's commands 1) because He, the almighty, holy, and just God, commanded us, but also 2) because we love Him.  Jesus Himself established this as the way we can demonstrate our love for Him and our thankfulness for what He has done on the cross.  He said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments" (John 14:15)

A little later in that chapter He says:

"Whoever has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” ~John 14:21

This is how we demonstrate how much we love God, by obeying His commands.  It's not merely forced upon us or something we "have" to do, keeping God's commands (Psalm 19:11) is something we do out of love.

2 John 6 says,

"This is love, [this is the way that we demonstrate our love for God] that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it."

The Keeping

It all comes back to obeying the commands.  Yes, we have a great reward awaiting us, and no that is not our purpose (love is), but whatever may be, we must keep these commands.  We must treasure them in our heart, guarding them in our minds, and obeying them with our actions.  My friends, God's Word is an ocean rich and deep with treasures.  Both within it's pages, and as rewards for obeying them.  But we must open the book.  We must apply ourselves diligently to it. And we must submit ourselves in obedience to it's commands.  Let us demonstrate our love for He Who gave His all for us by obeying His commands. We'll leave the reward in His hands, knowing however, that it will come, just as Psalm 19:1 has promised.

I leave you with this quote by Charles Spurgeon: 

"Then shall we know the value of the Scriptures when we swim in that sea of unutterable delight to which their streams will bear us, if we commit ourselves to them."

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

God's Word is Our Great Reward --Part 1

“And in keeping them [God's commands] there is great reward.”

Today we come to the line of the Scripture we have been studying for these past few weeks: Psalm 19:7-11.   I have so enjoyed studying God's Word with you and really diving deeply into our own heart responses to God's Word.  But let us dive into this last line, about the great rewards of following God's Words.

Before we look at what scholars call the "interpretation" and "application," let's take a look at observation--specifically, Hebrew words.

Hebrew Word for Keep

The word for "keeping" is the word "shamar."  I know that doesn't really mean anything to you, but as a Hebrew student myself, it is kind of cool.  :)  I'll even show you how it's spelled in Hebrew: שָׁמַר Pretty cool, hugh?  Anyway, the word shamar means "to keep, guard, observe, give heed."  It's the way you keep something in your mind (Genesis 37:11), or the way you keep a covenant (Genesis 17:9).  It also carries the idea of guarding (Joshua 10:18) and is translated that way in other passages.

This is how we are to treat God's Words.  We are called to keep them in our minds and to guard them from escaping our hearts.  More than that though, we are to observe them and give heed to what they say.  We are to obey God's Words.

The Great Reward

I'll be the first to admit that following in Christ's footsteps isn't always easy.  In fact, Jesus promised we would have trouble (John 16:33).  Although sometimes it may seem that we are in the loss, in the end, we will gain the greatest reward as we keep God's commands. We will one day be blessed beyond imagination.  Spurgeon says it well: 

“Oh the glory yet to be revealed! It is enough to make a man faint for joy at the prospect of it. Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. Then shall we know the value of the Scriptures when we swim in that sea of unutterable delight to which their streams will bear us, if we commit ourselves to them.”
What wonderful blessings and rewards we have waiting for us in heaven!  We can not even imagine what great things God has in store for us there (Ephesians 3:20-21)

Unfortunately this is all the time we have for today.  Come back again on Friday to hear more about the rewards we have for obeying God's Word, but even more than that, our motive.  I'll see you then!

Monday, May 2, 2016

God's Word is Our Warning

“Moreover by them Your servant is warned...”

Let me provide you a little bit of context to the line of Scripture above so you can better enjoy its beauty and learn from the depth of its meaning:
"More to be desired are they [God's words, the Scriptures] than gold,
Yea, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
Moreover by them Your servant is warned,
And in keeping them there is great reward."
~Psalm 19:10-11
There is such knowledge found in the word of God. Through the Scriptures, we are warned of our depravity, our danger, our duty, and our remedy. The Bible is our mentor and our counselor. It is our guide and our helper. It sheds a light on the dangers of our path and shows us the right way to go. It warns us of that which might hurt us (although sometimes it seems pleasant when we first behold it) and provides something so much better for us. He is our Guard and our Gentle Shepherd, leading us in the way of everlasting.

I liked this commentary.  It was a good visible representation of the Bible's role in warning its readers:

A certain Jew had formed a design to poison Luther, but was disappointed by a faithful friend, who sent Luther a portrait of the man, with a warning against him. By this, Luther knew the murderer and escaped his hands. Thus the word of God, O Christian, shows thee the face of those lusts which Satan employs to destroy thy comforts and poison thy soul. —G. S. Bowes, B.A., in "Illustrative Gatherings for Preachers and Teachers."
Do we value and hold dear the warnings of the Scriptures as we ought? Our gentle Shepherd is leading the way to green pastures; do we hear His voice?  Do we follow His direction? Do we heed His warnings?

As you choose how you are going to spend your free time today, remember Psalm 19:11.  Will you choose to sit at the feet of your Guide and soak up His words of warning?

When you approach the Scriptures each day, remember that these words hold counsel and training.  They will teach you the way of life.

"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." ~2 Timothy 3:16-17