The Yearning

Psalm 119:5 – “Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees.”

When I was a child there was nothing that my heart desired more than an Atari video game system. It was the must have Christmas item of 1977. One by one I watched my friends acquire this system. And, the more friends that acquired it, the more my desire for it grew. Have you ever desired something like that?

Our family never purchased an Atari. Eventually my desire for an Atari was replaced with the desire for even greater video game systems. That was replaced by the desire for a cool car, a girlfriend, a great job, etc.

I don’t know that I truly felt a desire for God that was as intense as my desire for things until my freshman year of college. I loved money, and my desire for things had convinced me that I was to pursue a degree that would put me on the fast track for career advancement and high yield investments. That freshman year a speaker came to our college campus and talked about our desire for God. I realized that my yearning for God was minimal, at best. God wanted my all. Real lordship demanded full hearted devotion.

These past few days, as I’ve studied Psalm 119:1-5, I’ve been continually reminded about God’s desire for me to yearn for Him more than anything else. I think this is the idea that the psalmist is trying to convey when he begins verse five with the word, Oh. You can almost hear the urgency in his voice as your read this passage. The psalmist has been sharing with us about those who are blessed and the way that they walk. He has called these people blameless and seekers of God. And, it seems to be that even the psalmist longed to be this kind of man.

So, how’s the yearning?

Does your heart yearn for the things of God?

If not, ask God to help develop in you a passion for the things of God. Ask God to help you get your eyes off this world, and all of its trappings, and onto Him. He longs for you to long for Him.

Dear God,

Help me to long for you. Help me to be like the psalmist, and to be one who can’t stand the thought of not pleasing you. Help my life to be a praise to you. Help my life to marked as one that is characterized by the touch of God in it. Thank you for your grace. Thank you for your love.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

You

Psalm 119:4 – “You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed.”

You.

Three letters in our English language that convey so much.

The word, you, can carry with it, so many different emotions. The letters can bring about stress, when we are thinking of one who makes our life difficult. The letters can make our heart warm as we think about positive memories with people we love. The letters can melt our heart as we think about that one who has captured our heart. In the movie Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Darcy, in the film’s climax pours out his love for Elizabeth with these words,

“. . . My affections and wishes have not changed, but one word from you will silence me forever. If, however, your feelings have changed, I will have to tell you: you have bewitched me, body and soul, and I love, I love, I love you. I never wish to be parted from you from this day on.”

So, what do you think of when you hear the word, You, and the You refers to God? Are you terrified? Are you in awe? Are you grateful? Are you bewitched, body and soul, and do you love, love, love Him? Or, is it some combination of the above? Maybe it’s none?

But, today, the word, You stopped me dead in my tracks.

Psalm 119:4 speaks of God; the only God. And it is God, who has laid down His precepts. God is serious. God expects that His law be fully obeyed.

You.

You!

This is huge. This is God, we’re talking about.

You, Creator and Sustainer of life, Ruler of the universe, Savior, Master, Lover of my soul, the One who knows the number of hairs on my head, the archenemy of Satan, the One who gives and the One who takes away, the Good Shepherd, the Lily of the Valley, the Champion, the Man of Sorrows, my Advocate, my Judge, my God, You, have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed.

I stand in awe. . . of You.

Dear Heavenly Father,

You are . . . and I am not.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

They Do Nothing Wrong

Psalm 119:3 – “They do nothing wrong; they walk in His ways.”

The 176 day journey continues today with Psalm 119:3.

Over the past couple of days we have read about those who are blessed by God. They are the ones who keep His commands.

In verse three of Psalm 119 we read that these people do nothing wrong; they walk in His ways. How cool would it to be one who does nothing wrong?

Nothing.

I can hardly grasp that concept. It seems like not a day goes by that I am not presented by hundreds of opportunities to do wrong. And not a day goes by where I get it right all day long. And yet, this passage suggests that those who walk according to the law; those who seek Christ with all of their heart, are capable of doing nothing wrong.

Nothing.

And, if we could really live life in this type of perfection then we would be God. And, we can’t. So, again, maybe the point is that apart from His strength and His power working through us, we are capable of doing nothing right.

Nothing.

You may say, “But what about those who don’t love Christ? They do good things.”

Yes, they do. But if it is not done for God’s ultimate glory, it is not done for the right reason. God created us for His pleasure and for His glory. Our lives are to be lived as a sacrifice of worship to Him. So, we are incapable of doing right when we walk apart from His ways.

1 John 3:9 says, “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.”

1 John 5:18 says, “We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him.”

Do Christians sin?

Of course.

So, how do we reconcile these verses that say that no one who is born of God will continue to sin? These verses have always bothered me. Because, I know that I am a Christian, and I know that I sin.

In 1978, Paul Van Gorder wrote a book entitled, In The Family – Studies in First John. What follows is a long excerpt from that book, but it describes, I believe very well, in great detail this struggle that we have as Christians between our old nature (sin) and our new nature (godliness).

“Consider, please, what this verse (1 John 3:9) does not say. It does not say that a person who is born of God never commits an occasional act of sin, but he does not make it his trade or practice, the course of his life. Again the verb ‘commit’ is in the present tense, indicating continuous action. J.N. Darby translates this verse, ‘Whoever has been begotten of God does not practice sin.; This in now way conflicts with John’s previous statement, ‘If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us’ (1 John 1:8). There is a difference between having sin and doing sin.

Here is the question: Why does the believer not practice sin? John says it is because ‘His seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.’ The new nature dwells in every Christian. Some translations capitalize the word ‘His,’ implying that it is God’s seed that remains in the believer. This seed is the new nature, the new man formed within the soul at salvation. That which is born of God in the believer, the new man, cannot sin. God’s seed abides within the believer; it cannot become defective.

I wonder if something else might be true here also? In 1 Peter 1:23 we read, ‘Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.’ The same truth is declared by James, ‘Of His own will begot He us with the word of truth . . .’ (James 1:18). The Lord Jesus Himself described the character of those who do not believe on Him: ‘And ye have not His word abiding in you’ (John 5:38). This is the engrafted word by which we have been made partakers of the divine nature (James 1:21). Nothing grows out of a carrot seed except a carrot; an apple seed brings forth an apple tree. So James inquires, ‘Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? Either a vine, figs? So can no fountain yield both salt water and fresh’ (James 3:12). Because God’s seed remains in the believer, it is impossible for a true Christian to practice sin. He no longer desires it. To live a wicked life, therefore, is foreign to true conversion.

Now, I am not ignoring the fact that the old nature is still within the believer. ‘That which is born of the flesh is flesh’ (John 3:6). Nor am I denying that ‘the carnal mind is enmity against God’ (Romans 8:7). This old nature is sinful, and it can produce nothing else. But the new nature is of the Lord, for we are ‘partakers of the divine nature.’ It is as incapable of sin as God is. When the Christian recognizes that he has a dual nature – one of sin and the other of God – he will be able to face life realistically. He will not want to dishonor his Heavenly Father by allowing anything to remain in his life that does not proceed from the new life. When on occasion the old nature asserts itself, and the believer lapses and allows an act of sin by thought, word, or deed, he can immediately do as 1 John 1:9 instructs, ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.'”

I told you it was a long one! But did you catch the power in Van Gorder’s words at towards the end of the last paragraph? “When the Christian recognizes that he has a dual nature – one of sin and the other of God – he will be able to face life realistically. He will not want to dishonor his Heavenly Father by allowing anything to remain in his life that does not proceed from the new life.” That’s what these verses in Psalm 119 have been about the past three days. Those who walk with God will want to please Him. We want to give back to the God who has so lavishly loved us. We want to adore Him. We want to not continue in a pattern of sin.

May it be so.

May it be so.

And, may we do nothing wrong.

Nothing.

Dear God,

That word nothing is a tough one. Because, I know that I am so guilty of doing many things that displease you. Thank you for the reminder that your Spirit dwells in me. Your seed dwells within me. I have been born anew. Help me to live like it. Help me to allow you to reign.

Thank you that nothing is impossible for You — even transforming me.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

Lessons from a Used Car Saleman

Psalm 119:2 – “Blessed are they who keep His statues and seek Him with all their heart.”

To say that I felt a bit hypocritical yesterday as I wrote about being blessed is an understatement. You see, when I was writing about God’s blessing, I was also feeling bitter.

Why?

Because, it feels like our entire financial world is being rocked(BLESSED, it could be our health). I chipped my tooth on a tootsie pop yesterday, and it will cost $400 to get it fixed (BLESSED, I have insurance). We have school shopping to do for four kids (BLESSED, my wife is an incredible bargain shopper and has already found great prices on almost everything that we need). We returned from a wonderful vacation (BLESSED, unlike the majority of the world we actually got to take a vacation) on Saturday. I was driving our van. It made it over 1300 miles without incident (BLESSED). On Sunday morning, as I was driving to church with Breanna and Chris I noticed a very loud noise coming from the front of our van. I’d heard the noise before. On a prior vehicle, the noise resulted in a tire falling off of the car as I was driving and ruining the car (BLESSED, because I could have been killed). After church, I took the van to a service station. My engine light was on too, so they ran a full diagnostic. The result? I need a new transmission and new wheel bearings. The noise was due to the fact that our wheel bearings are going to give out. The cost was estimated to be at least $4000. Our van has over 164,000 miles on it (BLESSED – That’s a ton of miles! BLESSED – We have a van).

So, I was upset. We do not have any money to put towards another vehicle. With four kids, one income, and Christian school education for three of our kids (BLESSED – We have been given so much) there just isn’t enough money to go around for another car payment.

Cyndi and I drove to the car dealership where we purchased my car a few years ago (BLESSED – We have two vehicles). When we got there I put on my best car buying face. I didn’t want to purchase anything, because I knew we couldn’t, but wanted to at least hear what we might be able to afford.

We were greeted by a used car salesman. And, he totally fit the stereotype. Except for the fact that he had told his boss to go home, because his boss was working too much, and he thought his boss needed to spend time with his family.

Over the course of the next hour, our salesman opened up to us. He told us of his divorce a few years back. His wife ran off with his best friend. He told us about his two kids who are in college. He told us of his own financial crisis. He was two weeks away from losing his home. And, he told us about how God had provided. He found this job around the time that he was about to lose his home. He had one great month that allowed him to make up for three months on his mortgage. He doesn’t know how he is going to make it this month, but he is trusting God. He told us that he had read a book about praising God in everything. “And so,” he said with a smile, “I am praising God for my children. I am praising God when I make a sale. I am praising God for my financial troubles. I am praising God for my divorce. I am praising God for the years that I have had in my home. I am praising God for my physical ailments. I’m praising God for it all. And, it’s transforming my life.”

I was convicted. Here I sat as the pastor, upset at God for letting my van get wrecked, and I was being taught by a man who has lost almost everything. (BLESSED)

So, what about Psalm 119:2?

Here’s what I’ve learned so far.

1) God really wants me to understand what it means to be blessed. He has already blessed me, but He wants me to know how much more blessed are those who seek Him and obey Him.

2) Jared Falkanger, one of my students sent me Jeremiah 29:11 today on my Facebook account. It’s a verse that I am reminded of at least once a week. But, today, I recalled Jeremiah 29:11-13, which says,

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

God wants me to seek Him with all of my heart. It’s talked about in Deuteronomy 4:29 too.

3) God really wants us to KEEP his commands. He talks about it in verses 22 and 146 of Psalm 119 as well. He also talks about it in Deuteronomy 6:17. Jesus told his disciples to keep his commands in John 14:23 (This was just a few days before He was crucified). Right before David died, he told his son Solomon, the heir to the throne to “walk in His ways and keep His decrees . .. ” in 1 Kings 2:3.

4) I can’t keep the commands of God without the Holy Spirit’s work in my life (Ezekiel 36:27).

Finally, I read about King Hezekiah today. In 2 Chronicles 31:21 it says, “In everything that he undertook in the service of God’s temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered.”

Dear God,

Help me to obey you like Hezekiah. Help me to follow you even when no one else in the world is. Help me to seek you with all of my heart. May my life be a living sacrifice. And, may I always remember the lesson of the used car salesman. Please give me the strength to praise you in everything.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.

Blessed

Psalm 119:1 – “Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord.”

I don’t know about you, but when I think about those who walk with God, I think about spiritual giants. I think about Elijah, walking along the road and then being escorted into heaven by a flaming chariot. I think about Enoch, another man who tasted not death, but was brought into the very presence of God. I think about Abraham and that burning bush experience that left him changed forever, and began a new path of walking with God. I think about David, the man after God’s own heart. But, Brian? No, I don’t think about Brian. And, I wish that I did.

I want to be a man who is known for walking with the Lord. I want to be known as a man who walks according to the law of the Lord. I began my spiritual journey of mediating on a verse in Psalm 119 each day for the next 176 days, this morning.

Today’s verse is a tough one. It’s about more than just walking with God. It’s about being a person whose ways are blameless. And, how does one do that? I don’t know about you, but blameless isn’t a word that I use to describe myself.

And, maybe that’s the point. Maybe what the Psalmist is trying to tell us is that none of us are blameless. And, maybe that’s why the hope of a Messiah, and our assurance that Christ is the Messiah is so beautiful. We, who desperately needed a Savior, have one. And, through Him, and through His forgiveness we can experience the walk of the blameless. We, who are far from blameless can be viewed as blameless before a Holy God.

That’s what a relationship with Christ does. So, if we look at Psalm 119:1 backwards, we end with the word “blessed.” And that’s what I am.

I am not blameless in my eyes. I am not one who walks in the law of the Lord. I try. But, I fail so often. But, I am blessed. And, I’m blessed because of Jesus.

Psalm 1 begins with the word “blessed” too. It says, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he mediates day and night.” (Psalm 1:1-2)

So, I’m blessed. And I’ve begun this journey of biblical mediation. And, Psalm 1 tells me that the blessed person mediates day and night on the law of the Lord.

Jesus talked about being blessed too. The most famous occurrence of this is in a passage of Scripture that we know as the Beatitudes. Matthew 5:3-12 tells us,

3″Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11″Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

In Luke 11:28 Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

Like a rebellious child, so many times I think that I know better than God. That my ways are better than His. Talk about the ultimate in arrogance. If I’d just listen to the Word of God and obey it life would be better.

Want more passages that correlate with this type of blessing that Psalm 119:1 speaks of? Check out Psalm 112:1, 128:1, John 13:17, James 1:25 and Revelation 22:14. The Bible is full of practical teaching on this subject.

In Ezekiel 11, God was calling His people back to Himself. In verse 20, God said, “Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God.”

Did you ever think that when we fail to walk in God’s ways that we fail to allow God to be God? It’s time. It’s time to obey. Its time to walk in God’s ways. It’s time to recognize that blessed people, people who have had the grace of God lavishly poured upon them, need to live like blessed people.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for your blessing. Thank you for your grace. Thank you for your work on the cross. Thank you for your resurrection power. Thank you for your transformative power. Thank you that you see me through the lenses of your forgiving power and not as a hostile judge. Thank you that you have the power to transform me. Help me to believe that with you working in me that the transformation can occur.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.

We Are Attempting Bat Evacuation

I have a new respect for Batman. In the movie Batman Begins, we find out that Bruce Wayne became Batman after overcoming his intense fear of bats. His fear developed when he fell into a well as a child. The well was full of bats that swarmed above young Bruce as he screamed in fear.

Last week, I encountered a bat. The bat was HUGE. He must have had a wing span of 10 feet. He had long vampire like teeth and beedy black eyes. And, he wanted to kill me. At least that’s what I thought when I saw it.

It was a little before midnight when, at the rental home that we were in at Maranatha Bible and Missionary Conference I saw it. He flew a few inches away from my face out of the bedroom and into the living room. At first I thought it was a bird. The lights were off. When I switched the light on, the bat came toward me again. This time, sure it was a bat, I did what any self-respecting man would do. I screamed like a little girl. My wife was in the next room and wondering what her husband was screaming about. I told her, “There is a HUGE bat in our house. It is trying to attack me.” She couldn’t stop laughing. When she told me to just get it out of the house I told her of my intense fear of bats. This is one creature that I could not get out.

We called the front desk at the resort. They called in a teenage security guard. Twenty long minutes later he arrived; tennis raquet in hand. And, I . . . well, you’ll have to watch this youtube video to see for yourself.

I’m ashamed. So, very ashamed.

176: A Spiritual Discipline

My family and I spent last week in Michigan. It was our annual vacation to Marantha Bible and Missionary Conference. You can find out more about Maranatha by following this link: Maranatha Bible and Missionary Conference. One of the things that I love about going to Maranatha is the time that I have to be spiritually fed by others. I also love the walks on the beach and the personal quiet times that I have with God. This year, I felt like God was telling me to take an in depth look at the longest chapter in the Bible, Psalm 119. So, for the next 176 days, I’m going to try something very different. The plan is to meditate upon one verse in Psalm 119 each day. And then, I want to record whatever it is that I feel that God is teaching me from that verse on my blog.

There may be some days where I record a lot. There will be other days that there isn’t much there. I’m excited to see what God does in my life as I take this extended look at Psalm 119. I can’t imagine that there won’t be a change in my life. And, I’m excited to invite you to join me on this journey.

The journey begins tomorrow morning.

You can read Psalm 119 in it’s entirity by following this link: Psalm 119.