God Has A Plan, You Have A Plan

Psalm 119:12 – “Praise be to you, O LORD; teach me your decrees.”

A couple months ago, Duane Liftin, the President of Wheaton College came to speak at Wooddale Church. I had never heard Duane speak. You could tell that Duane was from the world of academia. I loved listening to his stories, and the way that he weaved his message around a central theme. At one point, Duane talked about a bumper sticker that he had seen on a road, not long ago. The bumper sticker said,

“God has a plan
You have a plan
Your’s doesn’t matter.”

He was speaking from Psalm 127.

In Psalm 119:12, David is giving praise, once again, to God. And, he, once again, is asking for God to help teach him his decrees. So, why does David spend so much time talking about God’s law? For one, that’s what this Psalm is about. It’s David’s great psalm of praise for God’s perfect law. For another it’s because God’s ways are truly better than our ways.

In James 4 we read about the person who thinks that they can plan their entire life apart from God. It really is an exercise in eternal futility. James writes, “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”

Take some time today to praise God, for His will. We don’t always like it. Sometimes it causes us to question. But, it’s always good. Whether we believe it or not. God loves you. Allow Him to teach you His decrees.

Dear God,

Thank You that You love us. Thank you that I have a plan and You have a plan, and that mine doesn’t matter. But, thank You too that even though mine doesn’t matter, You care about it. And, thank You that when I stray, You stand ready to forgive.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

Precious Words

Psalm 119:11 – “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”

Sometimes I wonder how my life would have turned out had I not had my parents. Mom and Dad are pretty special people. I think I had the greatest parents in the world. A lot of my friends might argue, but I know that God placed me in the family that He did because He knew that I needed my parents.

Throughout my life the words that my parents taught me when I was a child have stuck with me.

“Brian, be careful who you hang out with.”

“Brian, watch your speed.”

“Brian, be a good husband.”

“Brian, there is no one in this world that doesn’t deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.”

“Brian, don’t be afraid to share your faith.”

I could go on and on. And, I’ve got to say, I wish I had listened to that speeding one a little bit better.

For good or for bad, and mostly for good, the words that my parents gave me when I was growing up are hidden in my heart.

Better yet, there are many of God’s words hidden there too.

I am so grateful that I have a relationship with Jesus Christ. His words have been my salvation, literally, for over 30 years now. And, when I walk in His ways, life goes better. When I don’t . . . well, let’s just say, life doesn’t work. Because, Jesus is life. And, Jesus gives life.

Dear God,

Thank you for your precious words. They are life giving. Help me to continue to hide them in my heart, and share them from the mountaintops.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

I Love My Daughter

Psalm 119:10 – “I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.”

I love my daughter, Breanna. That’s her with me in this picture. It was just a couple months back that we took that picture. Breanna had just walked down the aisle and received her eighth grade diploma.

Today, Breanna began high school. She’d tell you, “It was just orientation,” but it was the start. She spent time in each of the classes that she’ll take this quarter at Eden Prairie High School, and then to an assembly with her principal.

Breanna loves the Lord. She is excited about sharing His love with her classmates. And, she’s nervous.

Today’s verse talks about the righteous person who seeks God with all of her heart. That’s my daughter. She’s not perfect. But, I see in her a desire to know God. She desires to walk in His ways. In fact, I know of no person in my life who desires to walk in His ways as much as Bre. She just has this passion for holiness.

I’m praying that she’ll continue to walk like this. I’m praying that when she looks back on her high school years that she will be able to rejoice that she stayed faithful to Christ. I’m praying that she’ll transform EPHS. And, I’m praying that God will continue to transform her. May all of us seek to be people who seek God with all of our heart so that we will not stray from His commands.

Dear God,

Help Breanna to always walk with you. Help her to continually seek You with all of her heart. Help her to adore You. Help her when others make fun of her for her faith. Help her when she feels like she is standing all alone. And, help us all to be seekers of your heart.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

The Quest for Purity

Psalm 119:9 – “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.”

When I was in college I majored in pastoral ministries. One of the classes that all preacher boys, as they called us in the south, were required to take, was homiletics. This class taught us the art of preaching. I look back on some of the old videos that I have from that class and chuckle, as I see myself preaching with my fake southern accent. I was trying my best to be someone that I wasn’t in the pulpit of my Liberty University classroom.

My first homiletics professor was Dr. Jerry Kroll. He gave me a “C” for the class. And, he also gave me a gift. Dr. Kroll required all of his students to memorize Scripture. I had excuses almost every week for why I couldn’t memorize the verse. Eventually those excuses caught up with me. If I didn’t memorize the remaining verses for that sememster I was going to fail the class. So, I memorized. And, Psalm 119:9 was one of them. At the time that I memorized this verse it was a chore. Today, it’s a gift. I didn’t realize it then, but the verses that Dr. Kroll had us memorizing were nuggets of gold that would sustain me many times throughout my adult life.

This verse tells us that if we want to live pure lives that we have to live according to the word of God. When I think about our world today, purity is one of the last words that comes to mind. It is hard to drive down the street without being continually bombarded with assaults to the mind. Turn on the radio or television and the barrage continues. Get into conversations at Starbucks and it continues still again. We are not going to find purity in the world. But, we will in the Word of God. In two days we’ll take a look at verse 11, which corresponds directly with this verse. Until then, do your best to live according to the Word of God.

Dear God,

Help me to be a person of the Book, one who seeks to live my life in accordance with your priciples. Help me to never settle for Satan’s lies. Help me to fervently seek you with all of my heart.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

The God Who Does Not Abandon

Psalm 119:8 – “I will obey your decrees; do not utterly forsake me.”

There is some dispute over who wrote Psalm 119. Many say that it wasn’t, David. After all, the author is never named. But, I believe that Psalm 119 carries with it David’s distinctive writing style, and passion for God. C.H. Spurgeon, in his classic work, The Treasury of David wrote, “We believe that David wrote this Psalm It is Davidic in tone and expression, and it tallies with David’s experience in many interesting points. In our youth our teacher called it ‘David’s pocket book,’ and we incline to the opinion then expressed that here we have the royal diary written at varoius times throughout a long life. . . After long reading an author one gets to know his style and a measure of discernment is acquired by which his composition is detected even if his name be concealed; we feel a kind of critical certainy that the hand of david is in this thing, yea, that it is altogether his own.”

David had watched his predecessor, King Saul, walk with God and then stray from God. He had watched his predecessor’s mind become mad. He had seen the effects of the Holy Spirit being taken from the King. He had seen God utterly forsake Saul. And, now King David feared the same would happen to him.

In Psalm 51, fourteen months after his aggregious sin with Bathsheba, David confessed his sin before God. In verse 11 he wrote, “Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.”

When I read Psalm 119:8, I am reminded of Psalm 51. David seems to be saying that he is determined to obey God, among other reasons, so that God will not forsake him. Can you imagine that fear? Can you imagine what it would be like to live in fear that God would turn His back upon you and leave you forever without Him?

This is one of the differences between the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament. Jesus promised his disciples that He would send the Holy Spirit upon them (John 14:26; Acts 1:8). In 2 Timothy 1:14 we read that the Holy Spirit dwells within those of us who are followers of Jesus Christ. We have been baptized into the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit will not be taken from us. We do not have to worry about God abandoning us. He loves us and will never leave us or forsake us.

So, let’s rejoice today that God will not utterly abandon us. Yesterday I spoke to our Senior Highers. I shared with them from Revelation 21 about heaven. I had heard James McDonald, the Pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in Illinois share a sermon on heaven a couple weeks back and was so moved by it that I wanted our kids to catch it. McDonald showed how in Revelation 21 God reveals much about heaven. In it we see that:

1) God is constantly making everything new (Rev. 21:5)
2) God is near (Rev. 21:3, 7)
3) Suffering is Absent (Rev. 21:4)
4) Satisfaction is Abundant (Rev. 21:6)
5) Everyone is not Going to Heaven (Rev. 21:8)

Heaven could not be further from the fear of being utterly forsaken by God. But, hell? I think David’s fear of being utterly forsaken by God is a vivid description of what hell will be like?Those who taste hell’s flames will feel the desperation of being
utterly and completely forsaken. And that should compel those of us who have not been abandoned, but transformed by God to share His love with as many people as possible. May all of your friends and family know the power of the transforming work of Christ in a life.

Psalm 119:8 ends the first of 22 eight verse sections that make up Psalm 119. How appropriate that David ends this section with the declaritive statement that he will obey God’s decrees. He had talked about the benefits. He had talked about the trials. Now it was time to make the declaration.

May we follow with those hearts of allegiance that I mentioned in yesterday’s post. May we declare as Joshua and the people of Israel did in Joshua 24:14-16 “‘Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.’ Then the people answered, ‘Far be it from us to forsake the LORD to serve other gods!'”

Dear God,

Thank you that we do not have to worry about you abandoning us as you did with Saul. Thank you that your Holy Spirit dwells within us if we have allowed you to be our Savior. Help us to follow you with hearts that are fully committed. Help us to love you with pure hearts.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

My 38th Birthday Wish

Psalm 119:7 – “I will praise you with and upright heart as I learn about your righteous laws.”

Today is my 38th birthday. It’s been a special day. My family has gone out of their way to show their love for their dad and husband. The students in my youth ministry have showered me with love. And, God has once again reminded me of His faithfulness.

In Psalm 119:7 we read about a man who wanted to praise God with an upright heart as he learned about God’s righteous laws. In my 38th year of life, I want to be more like this man. I want to be able to say that my heart is faithful and true. I want to say that God is my top priority and that I believe His laws to be righteous and worth following.

Aren’t you glad that this verse doesn’t say, “I will praise you with a heart that has to, because you are God and if I don’t I’m in trouble. So, I’ll go ahead and follow your laws that are unfair?”

If the above statement were true, then God wouldn’t be worthy of our allegiance. God’s laws are righteous. They are for His glory and our benefit. In fifteen years of full-time youth ministry I have talked with hundreds of students who were upset at God because they felt like God didn’t want them to have any fun. This afternoon I received a phone call from one of my former students. He was a guy that was as messed up as any that I had ever worked with. I’ll never foget the New Year’s Eve evangelistic outreach that I was at one year when one of my dear volunteer staff members sent a student to find me. He was sitting with this student (the one who phoned today) in the stall of a church bathroom. The student was vomiting violently. The volunteer staffer would need a new shirt and a shower before the night was through. The student was cursing up a storm. He had poisened himself with alcohol and he was going on and on about how life wasn’t worth living, and God was ruining his life.

How great to talk with this student years later. He’s a 25-year-old father of two now. And, he knows that he was a handful back then. He joked with me today that his father told him that God’s punnishment to him would be that one of his children would give him heartache as he grows up. I pray that doesn’t happen. And, I pray that he has learned the lesson that God’s laws are good. And, I pray that his old youth pastor will remember that lesson too.

God loves you. Where are you at in your relationship with Him? Have you given Him the opportunity to control your life, or are you still trying to run things on your own? May you pray, as I do that you will praise God with an upright heart as you learn his righteous laws.

Dear God,

Thank you that you love to prove your love for us. You do it over and over again. Help us to praise you with hearts that are upright and true. May our lives speak of our allegiance to you to everyone who comes in contact with us. May we always stand in awe at your good and righteous laws.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.

Some People Have To Learn The Hard Way

Psalm 119:6 – “Then I would not be put to shame when I consider all of your commands.”

I am super sore tonight. My son Jeremy and I decided to take the longest bike ride of Jeremy’s life. We had a great time. We rode from our home to a local park about 3 miles away and then rode all around the lake at that park. By the time our bike ride was done we had traveled about 9 miles. It was the best time I ever remember having with Jeremy. In fact, we had such a good time that we invited Jeremy’s brother Chris to join us for a second ride about an hour later. And, we rode another 9 miles.

This wouldn’t be a huge deal if I was in shape, but I’m not. I want to get in shape. I have good intentions. I work hard for short periods of time. And then, I revert to old habits.

In Psalm 119:6, the psalmist concludes his thought that was started in verse 5. Taken as two verses this passage would read, “Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees! Then I would not be put to shame when I consider all your commands.” I can relate. When I consider all of the commands of Christ, when I look at the demands that He places on those who follow Him, and then when I consider that I am far from steadfast in obeying Him, I too am put to shame. I’m so sore today because I know that it would be best for me if I worked out regularly. When I finally do it, I’m put to shame. But, if I keep doing it, I’ll reap rewards. And, if I keep following Christ, I won’t be put to shame.

Following Christ involves daily dying to self. It’s a hard thing to do. But, it’s worth it. So, today I choose to follow Christ. To allow His Spirit to reign in me. No matter how much it hurts, it’s worth it. Because, God is doing a new work in me.

Dear God,

Help me to be so steadfast in following you that a day will come where I won’t be put to shame when I consider all your commands. Thank you that you are patient with me. Help me to show love to others like you have to me.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.