Whose Words Do You Trust?

Connecting Points

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Today’s Topic: Whom Do You Trust                                                 

Today’s Text:  Psalm 119:41-42 (ESV)
41 Let your steadfast love come to me, O LORD, your salvation according to your promise;
42 then shall I have an answer for him who taunts me, for I trust in your word.

Two brothers are playing down by the river. Their father has instructed them to not use the tire swing that hangs from a large branch extending beyond the river’s bank. A neighbor boy arrives in his swim trunks and carrying a towel. He heads straight for the swing. He begins to verbalize his intentions of standing on the tire and swinging it far out over the river and jumping into the water below.

As he climbs onto the swing for the first time, he taunts the two brothers who are staying a safe distance away from the water’s edge. He calls their courage into question using words like sissy and scaredy-cat. He accuses them of weakness and physical disability by claiming they aren’t strong enough to hang on to the rope. He challenges their ability to swim. He mocks their manhood even though they are just boys and declares them to be wimps.

As the taunter returns from his first dive into the river, his verbal bashing begins again. One brother begins to make his way towards the swing to prove himself. His brother runs after him and grabs his arm, reminding him of what their dad had said about staying off the swing. The neighbor boy makes another antagonistic comment about boys who can’t make decisions for themselves, and climbs onto the swing for another attempt at an even higher dive off the tire.

The brothers begin to explain to the boy why their dad had told them to stay off the swing. But the swing-happy boy would not listen. As the brother’s eyes followed the swing as it reached an ever-increasing altitude, they noticed the frayed rope their dad had warned them about at the point where it was tied to the tree branch. It was unraveling right before their eyes, and before they could yell out to stop the boy on the swing, the rope let loose. The swing was on a return path towards the tree and the free-falling tire propelled itself and the rider into the rocky river bank. The rider was seriously injured.

After watching the ambulance take their neighbor away, they hugged their dad. He thanked the boys for obeying. They thanked him for warning them about the swing. They began to understand their father’s love that established rules for their own good. They saw that the words of their father could be trusted. They understood that no amount of taunting and ridicule from others should ever convince them to reject their father’s will just to try to protect their own image.

Satisfied!!!

Connecting Points

Monday, October 29, 2012

Today’s Topic: Satisfied!                                                                   

Today’s Text:  Psalm 119:33-40 (ESV)
33 Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end.
34 Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.
35 Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.
36 Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!
37 Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.
38 Confirm to your servant your promise, that you may be feared.
39 Turn away the reproach that I dread, for your rules are good.
40 Behold, I long for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life!

Monday mornings are hard for me, because I typically don’t sleep all that well on Sunday night. This morning is especially difficult because in addition to the normal reason for not sleeping well, I have this nasty cough that won’t go away and keeps me awake at night. I have been voluntarily sleeping in the grandkid’s Cat in the Hat bedroom so that Denise can sleep while I toss and turn and cough and hack.

The normal reason I don’t sleep well on Sunday nights is because I’m typically reviewing my sermon in my head and wondering why I said some things and why I didn’t say others. Last night I had a huge concern that the main point of the sermon didn’t get across sufficiently. Just about the time I would find peace by surrendering it all to the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the hearer, I would cough, thus starting the thinking process all over again.

Then the Lord met me this morning with this next section of the one-hundred-nineteenth Psalm. It is the exact re-focusing of my mind and heart that I needed this morning. Here in a nutshell is what the Lord is showing me:

Surrender – It is the Lord’s way that I need, not more of my own way (vs. 33). It is His understanding of His eternal law that I long for, not more of my own laws based on my own limited understanding of life (vs. 34). It is His direction that I need and that will bring me delight, not affirmation of my own choices and decisions (vs. 35). It is for His glory that I speak forth His testimonies from a heart that is inclined towards them, rather than speaking only those things that benefit me (vs. 36). I confess that all the things of this life are worthless compared to the life you can and will give me, so I surrender them all to you (vs.37)

Supplication – With a surrendered heart, I seek my life from you and you alone. I come before you with a humble heart that recognizes my need and your provision. I specifically ask you for the following things so that my life will be pleasing to you. Teach me the way of life governed by your statutes and I will live in it(vs. 33). Give me understanding so that your law makes sense to me and I will choose it over all other options (vs. 34). Lead me and direct my life in the path you have prepared, for I will find delight in it (vs. 35). Change me by changing the inclinations of my heart so they only and always lean towards you not towards self (vs. 36). Turn me away from the worthless things of the world and show me the value of your ways (vs. 37). Confirm your promises to me, whether they be for blessing or cursing, so that in my heart I have a healthy fear of you that produces obedience to your Word (vs. 38). Give me courage to stand for you no matter what reproach it brings me from the people I live with every day, because ultimately I believe that your rules are good (vs. 39).

Satisfaction – In surrendering my way to yours, and in seeking your supply of all things necessary for life, I find complete satisfaction. I delight in the path you have chosen for me, knowing that behind all the pain of the current circumstances you are there directing every detail to bring glory to your Name and good to my life (vs. 35, 39). You are fulfilling your promise to give me life – real life – abundant life – so I long to know more and more of your precepts (vs. 40).

Suddenly being tired doesn’t matter anymore. I wonder what blessing God has planned for today that will confirm His promises to me and completely satisfy the longings of my heart? I am praying diligently for the same for you!

Pastor John

Life from Dust

Connecting Points

Friday, October 26, 2012

Today’s Topic:  Clinging to Dust                                                                              

Today’s Text:  Psalm 119:25-26 (ESV)  My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word! When I told of my ways, you answered me; teach me your statutes!

When God created man He did it from the dust of the earth. We must not think of dust the way our mothers did. Dust in God’s creation refers to the basic chemical elements from which all things are made. According to Isaiah 40:12, God calculated the dust of the earth and measured it precisely.  In that verse, God is declared to be the Designer of everything that exists, and has carefully and with perfect precision measured the exact amounts of water necessary for the sustaining of life on the earth, and has put in place the natural laws of the universe that control every detail of His geophysical creation, right down to the specific weight of mountains and hills so the world is perfectly balanced.

It is from this dust – the chemical elements of this world – that God creates man in His own image. After the exact composition of the chemical elements is formed, God breathes into Him the breath of life, and he became a living being. Eventually he would sin and rebel against His Creator, causing all of human life to be plunged into the darkness of separation for God, with only the dust – the basic chemical composition of life – to cling to. What a hopeless state.

That is the place the Psalmist has referred to today. He recognizes the times in his own life when it seems like all he has to cling to is what little wisdom and strength that the physical life provides. So many of us have glorified man’s wisdom, abilities, strength, thinking that they are all we need to flourish. What a rude awakening it is when life crashes down so hard that we realize that all we cling to is dust.

But it is in those times of brokenness that the Lord brings His life to us. It is when we are clinging to nothing but the little strength our physical bodies have left that we can confess our ways that have failed to the Lord and He will teach us His ways that bring life.

Notice that the recognition of weakness is not sufficient for solution to the problem. It was not enough that the Psalmist reached the end of his own strength and resources, but he went on to the point of confession to the Lord of all the ways he had gotten there. We see in this the activity of repentance. He was taking responsibility for his ways that got him into this condition. It is then and only then that the Lord meets us with forgiveness, life, teaching, and renewed purpose.

Believe me, I know what it is to reach the point of clinging only to dust. The past two months of my life have been the constant reality of this truth. But in it all, I have discovered the splendor of God’s grace and the life that comes from the Word of the Lord. You can too. If you are at the point of clinging to dust and wonder where you will ever get the strength to move ahead, then fall on your knees before God and confess to him all of the ways of dust you chose that got you to this place. Repent of them, and inhale again the breath of life from God Himself. He will teach you, and you will live.

Now, read the rest of the verses in this section, and see the hope God brings. 27 Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works. 28 My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word! 29 Put false ways far from me and graciously teach me your law! 30 I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your rules before me. 31 I cling to your testimonies, O LORD; let me not be put to shame! 32 I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!

Cling to His testimonies, and run in the way of His commandments (notice, you are running again), for the Lord will enlarge your heart.

Pastor John

More Rules Please!

Connecting Points

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Today’s Topic: More Rules Please!                                                  

Today’s Text:  Psalm 119:20 (ESV) My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times.

When was the last time you heard anyone say this – More rules please!”? Probably never, right? We are tired of rules. They contradict our inherent sin nature. Anarchy – that’s what we want. Let each one determine their own rules based on their own desires and preferences. That’s the nature of fallen humanity.

But it is NOT the nature of redeemed humans. Those who by faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and His resurrection have been saved from their sin have a totally different perspective on rules. Bring them on. Load me up. Teach me. I live best within the confines of God’s covenant. More rules please! These are the cries of a transformed heart.

Join me for a moment in reflecting on the nature of being consumed with longing for more rules. This requires a simple study of the meaning of the words. This may seem boring to some of you, but may I remind you that the meaning of words is critical to communication of any kind, so this is very important.

As I sought wisdom from the original Hebrew language using my extremely limited understanding, I discovered a significant truth. (I can’t wait for my friends Hebrew scholar friends Linn and Curt to bounce back their input on this.)  The word consumed is used only three other times in the Old Testament, and each time in the context of crushing. The soul here refers to any living creature having breath. It is the word used to describe the natural life of all animals and humans.  Longing, and its root form long, is a unique word to the author of this Psalm, and is used three times by him and nowhere else in Scripture. It means to desire. And finally, the word rules in its purest definition means verdict pronounced judicially based on the law.

Thanks for sticking around through that teaching in expectation of truth that will be revealed. Here is what God laid on my heart as a result of knowing His definition and inspiration of these words.

Almighty God, my flesh and its natural and sinful desires are being crushed with the desire to know more and more of your law so that I might be in agreement with the verdicts you pronounce on those who break them.

I believe that we believe that ignorance is bliss, and that we will not be judged based on what we don’t know. What we do not understand is that this belief completely denies the nature of God who is Just and Righteous in all His ways. It is not up to us to know only the ways of God that comply with our current choices. Rather, it is our privilege to know ALL the ways of God and conform our choices to His verdicts. In fact, within the very nature of our redemption is the longing to know God and His ways. So powerful is that longing that it consumes and crushes all desires of the flesh – or at least it could if we would surrender to it.

That’s the problem – we don’t surrender to the redeemed nature, but rather we continue to cling to it. Instead of crucifying the flesh daily, our old nature of sinful flesh has been given the right to reside in a state of self-declared coexistence with the nature of Christ. This may seem reasonable to us, but it is an impossibility with God. Daily the sinful desires are to be crushed under the longing for God that accompanies true salvation. Daily the desires to know Him, to know His rules, and to obey Him are to overwhelm the desires of the flesh. This is the power of the Holy Spirit in us, Whom Jesus sent to bring to our minds all the things that Jesus taught and to empower us to obey them. The Redeemer has sent His Spirit into our lives to resurrect the life of Jesus in us so that we might reflect His nature in all we do.

My friends, this is serious business. It is not to be declared too heavy or too deep and thereby ignored as insignificant. Look carefully at the rest of this portion of Psalm 119. Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law, as the Psalmist says in verse 18. I am a sojourner on the earth; hide not your commandments from me! Only then will I know how to represent you in a world where I do not reside nor belong. (verse 19) Your verdicts are just on those who disobey, and ignorance is disobedience. Therefore I will long for your commandments and not wander from the. (verses 21-22). No matter what people do to me, or how the circumstances of life pile up against  me, I will turn only to your statutes and meditate on them, knowing that solutions are not found in my heart, but in yours. (verse 23) My only hope for joy in this life and for guidance through this life is to be found in your Word, so I will delight in it. (verse 24)

“More rules please!”

GIGO or TITO

Connecting Points

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Today’s Topic: Be Pure                                                                     

Today’s Text:  Psalm 119:9 (ESV) How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.

Are you a GIGO or a TITO? The choices we make every day are determined by which one we are. Our connectivity to the world and our intimacy with God is determined by which one we are. The integrity of our heart is determined by which one we are. The choice of which one we are is ours, and is the most fundamental of all choices which in turn motivates and validates all other choices. After choosing to follow Jesus, this one choice affects all other choices and determines our spiritual health. It is that important!

Are you a GIGO – Garbage In, Garbage Out – or a TITO – Truth In, Truth Out.

See what the Psalmist says in this powerful passage on personal purity:

9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. 10 With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! 11 I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. 12 Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes! 13 With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. 14 In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. 15 I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. 16 I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.

Here are some truths the Lord put on my heart as I reflected on this passage today:

  • There is an assumed desire to keep our way pure, thus the Psalmist’s question of how to do it. Upon receiving Jesus Christ as Savior, the desire of the heart becomes the holiness of the Savior. You don’t have such a desire? Then go back to the cross and discover the splendor of Christ’s sacrifice for your sin, and allow the love of God to so overwhelm your soul that you rise from your prostate prayers with a passion to please Him.
  • There is a personal responsibility for each one of us to guard our way using the Word of God. Nothing just happens. Choices are made and are always the product of the belief system we have chosen for our life. The power of self is strong and results in sin, but the Savior has conquered sin and in His resurrection has provided present and eternal victory. But it is our choice to appropriate it or not. We can choose to not guard our ways and live according to the flesh and its desires, or we can choose to seek the Lord and His commands and keep our way pure.
  • There is a vast chasm that separates the intellectual knowledge of God and His Word from the experiential knowledge of God. Many know in their head what their heart has never known. Many can answer questions but have no personal experience to validate the answer. Those who are in the know only will be left with only their knowledge to add to the eternal suffering that awaits them. How horrific is the punishment of hell when the knowledge of the Savior is added to it so physical and mental anguish combine in total agony. But those who move from knowledge of God to the experience of relationship with God, having their hearts captivated by His truth, are already experiencing the fulfillment of life which continues for all eternity in His presence. Your Word, O Lord, have I stored up in my heart that I might not sin against You.
  • “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” So says Jesus in Luke 6:45. Our speech does not reveal our intelligence, but our beliefs. We may fool some people some of the time, but eventually our speech reveals the truth of our hearts and their spiritual condition. Notice the progression in the passage – I have stored up your word in my heart…with my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. How you talk and what you talk about is the truth of what you really believe and what you have chosen for the love of your heart.
  • One final point – the words and ways of God are to be the top priority of our hearts. In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. What we desire, what we pursue, and what we enjoy are the indicators of what we have chosen to love. What we take in, put in, and allow in to our lives fully and unavoidably becomes our identity. It is the absolute truth of God that in the spiritual realm we are what we eat. That is why we must choose to feed only on the Bread of Life.

Today, and every day, I choose to be a TITO!                                                                            Pastor John

Pain is Gain

Connecting Points

Monday, October 22, 2012

Today’s Topic: The Pain is Gain                                                       

Today’s Text:  Galatians 6:17 (ESV)  From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.

I know, I said last week that I was going to be studying the one-hundred-nineteenth Psalm, but that was my plan. God interrupted it already.

For the past several weeks some very serious circumstances in people’s lives have become very heavy to bear. They have not only caused deep hurt and pain on behalf of those involved, but they have reminded me of the pain of my own sin and selfishness. It is an intense time of inner reflection that has become the battlefield of the enemy forces that wage war against my soul. Self-pity, self-degradation, and self-devaluation have raised their ugly heads wearing masks of beauty and hope in an attempt to convince me to travel down their paths.

Then on Saturday night, during a period of sleeplessness, the Holy Spirit of my Savior Jesus Christ delivered a clear message: “Does not Jesus still have the holes in his hands and feet and side? They are there not only as a reminder of the sin that He bore in His body, but more so they are a reminder of the indescribable and indiscriminate grace of God to turn pain into gain.”

WOW! God’s grace turns pain into gain. As a result, every demonic reminder of the past becomes a connecting point to the grace of God.

The picture of my Lord’s hands, feet, and side was forefront on my mind when I arose this morning. As I opened my emails from overnight another e-devotional from Pastor Daniel Henderson arrived. One would have to be spiritually dead to not see that God wants this truth to sink deeply into my soul. His devotional was entitled “Leading and Living with a Limp”. At the end of the devotional he shares a poem he wrote, and it is powerful. May it bless you today as you discover the strength to embrace your pain and your failures and use them as a connecting point to God’s grace.

The Wound 

They didn’t warn me about the wound in seminary
So it has come as quite a shock to my unsuspecting heart.
At times it seems so deep – beyond the repair of stitches.
Even divine sutures seem insufficient and vain; 
The breadth of the wound overwhelms me at moments:
All-consuming – defeating – debilitating.
Then, some days the wound is inconsequential.
I busy myself with administrivia to anesthetize its presence.
I try to enjoy my family and hope it doesn’t surface. 
After the well-delivered Sunday sermon, I forget it is there.
But by Monday, its stench and pain has reappeared,
Creating a noticeable limp in my ministerial gait
And a dullness to my vision and faith. 
I would like to ignore it; just pretend it’s not true.
But its dull, sometimes sharp prompting won’t leave me alone.
It goes with me – following me everywhere –
Within me at all times, reminding me constantly. 
It has become the unwelcome mirror
of my weakness and vulnerability.
The wound is a grinding present memory of my failures;
Its reality shoots through the nervous system of my inner-man,
Calling out for attention, at least a fair estimation. 
So now, in these quiet moments, I sit –
face to face with my woundedness.
Oh, my wound – my horrible wound – you unwelcomed intruder.
Why have you come? Why won’t you go? 
Perhaps I have no recourse but to make you my friend.
You must know that I would not have chosen you as a companion,
For in so many ways you are ugly and troublesome to me.
But now, I must love you, embrace you –
integrate you gladly into the very fabric of my being.
 What? What is that you say?
You are the intimate friend of my Savior Jesus?
You found your discriminating way into His life?
His hands, His feet, His brow, His side are marked by your presence?
His heart, too, wears your brand? 
Oh, wound – precious wound. Forgive me, for I did not understand.
It is you that gave my Master the privilege of suffering for me.
By you I was forgiven and healed, in Him.
So I must welcome you, beloved wound. 
Yes, make yourself a part of me.
Offer your touch to the hurting world around me,
that they too may see your wonder –
and know your healing grace. 
Oh, wound, you are my enigma.
But you are my friend.
Without warning you came.
Now, without question – please, please – stay.
© 1999, 2010 by Daniel Henderson
Copyright © 2012 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.

Be Determined

Connecting Points

Friday, October 19, 2012

Today’s Topic: Determined To Do It                                                  

Today’s Text:  Psalm 119:1-8 (ESV)

1 Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD! 2 Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, 3 who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways! 4 You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently. 5 Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes! 6 Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments. 7 I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous rules. 8 I will keep your statutes; do not utterly forsake me!

Determination: we all know what that is, and we even have it in many areas of our lives. We are determined to make the most of life. We are determined to take a well-deserved vacation. We are determined to get ahead. We are determined to get the job done.

If only that kind of determination was being experienced in our spiritual lives. For some of you it is, but for far too many of us it just doesn’t seem to be there. We read our Bibles, pray, worship and praise when things are good, but let there be a little trouble and we run in retreat and slumber in self-pity. Our true heart is revealed in such times as we seek to take control and fulfill our own objectives for our own good. We are determined to protect ourselves when we could be determined to let God protect us.

Many of us tend to read the Bible with such self-serving motives. About the only thing we have really determined in our hearts is that the Word of God is just another of the viable options on the table. We read it for information only so later we can make what we consider to be a wise choice when it is compared with the other options available. The only real determination we have is that we are determined to run life our way.

That must change if we hope to have any blessing from God and stability to life. The prerequisite to living a full and abundant life of peace and freedom is to enter into the reading of God’s Word with a determination that whatever it says will be obeyed explicitly and exclusively. God’s Word is not one of many entrées on the buffet of life, but rather is the only item on life’s menu.

I am beginning today a study of the one-hundred-nineteenth Psalm, taking one section each day. I am doing this in my own personal life because I need to find strength for the days ahead from the only Source of lasting strength. I chose this portion of sacred Scripture because of its affirmation of the beauty and authority of God’s Word.

As I started studying the first eight verses I was immediately overwhelmed with the truth of determination. Before any promises other than blessing are given by God for our benefit, the Psalmist makes clear that he is already determined to do whatever it is that God says. He emphasizes that he is determined to be steadfast and walk only in the ways of the Lord. He is determined to be obedient. Only then does he discover the reward for such determination – freedom from shame and the constant presence of God in his life.

Please understand this clearly – the Lord God Almighty is offended by our attempts to claim His presence in our lives when while we pick and choose which parts of His Word to obey. He will turn us over to the natural consequences of our choices. It will appear to us that He has forsaken us, but that is not the case, for He cannot and will not forsake His children. He is simply honoring our choices, while waiting with open arms to receive back into fellowship the one who repents and again determines to be obedient.

Determination: it is to be the foundation of the study of God’s Word. I am determined that whatever God says I will do. Could it mean rejection by the people of the world? Probably. Could it mean public disgrace in the eyes of those who serve self in the world? Possibly. Could it mean humiliation? Hopefully, because it is in humiliation that the power of Christ’s Presence is discovered. You see, the guarantee of God is that the one who is determined to obey at all cost is the one who will never be put to shame. That’s because there is no shame in the truth. Shame is always the product of hypocrisy. The inconsistent heart is the fertile soil in which the seed of shame grows. But where there is truth and the consistent, steadfast, and determined obedience to it, there can be no shame.

I am determined, from this day forward, to be blameless; to walk in the way of the Lord; to keep His testimonies and seek Him with my whole heart; to do no wrong; to be steadfast in keeping God’s statutes; and to praise Him with an upright heart as He corrects me when I need it. I am determined!