It is still early in the New Year. Many people make - and then break - resolutions for the new year. How are your's going? I think Jesus told us the one resolution we need to make DAILY - Matthew 6: 33 - Seek first HIM---and His will for our lives! If that is not done, then I believe we are probably doomed to fail at any resolve me make.
This morning I began a devotional by A. W. Tozer designed for pastors/ministry leaders. The title was "Personal Life: Let God Alone." Immediately I was reminded of the old cliche, "let go and let God." The scripture it used was James 1: 4 - "But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing." You guys know me, I love to go to the Amplified Bible and meditate on the words they use . The verse reads this way there, "But let endurance and steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work, so that you may be [people] perfectly and fully developed [with no defects], lacking in nothing." A few additional words to emphasize the assurance.
Tozer tells us that through this verse God is saying, "I stand ready to pour a little liquid fire into your heart, into your spiritual being!" However, we respond: "No, Lord, please excuse me. That sounds like fanaticism—and I would have to give up some things!"
So, what are we doing? We refuse His desire for us, even though we want all the benefits of His cross. That cannot be! We must resolve to seek first Him---and allow Him to do His work in us.
The devotional goes on to say: "There is this thoughtful phrase in The Cloud of Unknowing: "He wills thou do but look on Him and let Him alone." We are being challenged to "Let God alone." Let Him do His work in us. Do not try to stop Him. Do not stand in His way. Do not "prevent Him from kindling your heart, from blessing you and leading you out of a common state into that of special longing after Him."
You and I do not have to "coax" God. He is not waiting for us to beg Him for His blessings. The blessings are His to give and He waits for us to let Him work.
Again the devotional says, "Look on Him and let Him work, let Him alone." Get your hands down to your side and stop trying to tell God where to cut. Stop trying to make the diagnosis for God. Stop trying to tell God what to give you. He is the Physician! You are the patient...." I guess it is our human nature to try to reverse the roles and manipulate things along, but we really need to heed what Tozer is saying. As we are admonished in the Psalms - be still and KNOW God. Our constant efforts to "reverse roles" and manipulate things to "help the process" stands in the way of God accomplishing His full and complete work in us.
Today, I challenge you (and myself) to let Him work in you (us). As we do, our spiritual lives will begin to "blaze like the rising sun." It will be visible to those around us. We will be better able to withstand the snares of the enemy!
Here is the prayer they ended the devotional with: "Lord, I know there is a work You want to do in my life today. I'll try to stay out of the way, take my hands off, and let You work! I'll put my hands to my side even now as a sign that I'm going to let You alone today to do Your work in me. Amen."
"If Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go against the LORD’s command, to do anything good or bad of my own will? I will say whatever the LORD says." Numbers 24:13
It has been a LONG time since I updated the blog. Have spent the month thus far keeping up with the AWAKEN Prayer Prompts. It is my prayer the churches are engaged in fervent prayer for awakening, revival, and that the Gospel is being shared and lost people are coming to Jesus! As I shared this morning, an awakened church is seeing a harvest of lost souls!
What is the OUTSIDE of your refrigerator used for? If your is like mine, it serves as a "grapevine" of important information. When I have a message I want to make sure Linda (or one of the kids gets if they're visiting), I use the magnet to attach the note to the handle - a sure place it will be noticed. When we have something we want to make sure we know where we can find it in a hurry, it is hung on the refrigerator Checks for the church, bills to be paid, important pictures of the family, invitations to events, the church bulletin and newsletter (when they were hard copy), notes from people and the school that MUST be dealt with, weekly calendars, grocery lists -- ANYTHING important is always posted there for the family to review, know about, comment, and deal with it as appropriate.
The story is told of a family who used the refrigerator door to post the "house rules" for the children. In that home, one of the house rules was that no one could say, “Shut up.” The mom thought it wise to post a warning on the fridge. She drew a large red circle with the words, Shut up, written in the center. Across the words she drew a bold slanted line marking the words out.
One afternoon when friends of her children were playing at their home, she overheard a visiting child say, “Shut up.” Quick as a wink, both her children said, “You can’t say that!” “Why?” the visiting child asked. “Because our refrigerator says so!" was their reply.
They’d learned the valuable lesson of respecting and obeying authority. As God’s children we’re expected to imitate Him with our speech. We can’t know His words unless we study the Bible. Review Scripture with others. Seek their counsel, as you would with family—for we are all in the family of God.
And - of course, we need to be obedient to the words that are found in His Bible - our guidebook for daily living. We are to obey God above ALL others. This world - and even people close to us - might be accepting of things that are contrary to the Word of God. But we - as followers of the Living Christ, MUST be obedient to our Lord. A lack of obedience is SIN.
Pray today that in word and deed, we will honor and please our Heavenly Father. And - that as we go - in obedience to Hios command to His peope, we will make disciples!
This morning I continue to pray for the communities throughout TRBA and the churches that God has placed within those communities to "rescue the perishing" and "care for the dying." My heart is burdened in so many ways as I pray for an awakening within the church to the need and the lostness that is all around us.
Yesterday there were 6 SMALL gatherings of people that participated in the RoofTop Prayer Experience throughout TRBA of which we are aware. HOPEFULLY, as some emails and FaceBook posts indicate - there were others praying with us that could not be in those gatherings. As NC Baptists are praying over the next 30 - 45 days, take some extra time to "look out" over your community and sense what God is leading you/your church to do to minister in His name to hurting and LOST people all around us!
Maybe start with the following questions as you pray (and I am the church where I am a member (Ephesus Baptist Church of Spring Hope) to answer these questions: 1. How many people live within 5 miles of the church I attend?
7005 people live within a five-mile ring around Ephesus Baptist Church. If NC statistics are correct, then AT LEAST 5500 of them are NOT affiliated with a local church. Truly, the fields are "white unto harvest."
57% of those people are Anglo, 33% are African-American, and 8% are Hispanic. If my church does not reflect the racial make-up of its community, could God be calling us to do more towards that end? 2. Is my community going to grow over the next 5 years?
Between now and 2017, the projection is that the community will grow by 4.8% (337 NEW people within the next 5 years). In other words, there will be almost 3 times MORE people coming into our community over the next 5 years than were in my church this past Sunday.
In looking at the member churches of TRBA yesterday, I discovered ALL communities around our churches were growing SOME in the next 5 years and some were growing 15%. Truly, the fields are "white unto harvest." 3. What are the most prominent age groups in my community?
What I saw AMAZED me------>
- 980 people UNDER 22
- 1680 people between 22 - 30
- 1960 people between 31 - 51
- The above groups represent the people that are pretty sparse in our church (and neighboring churches within that 5-mile circle)
- 1540 people are in MY age group in the community (52 - 69)
- 840 people are over the age of 70 in my community
- The average age in my community is 40.4 years of age
TRULY, "the fields are white unto harvest." Pray with me that God will awaken our people to at least pray for the segments of people that are NOT in our churches. Pray that we will be willing to sacrifice our convenience, personal preferences, and traditions for the sake of reaching the lost of our community. 4. What are some of the obvious needs in my community?
- 44% of the homes with children in my community are led by single parents (8% by single dads)
- More than 1 out of every 5 adults did NOT graduate from high school
- More than 1900 adults have NEVER married and more than 1300 are divorced or widowed
Pray with me that my church will look to the obvious needs of our community and determine ways we might need to minister to the special needs that exist within our mission field surrounding our church. There are particular needs that arise when parents are trying to “do it all alone,” and the local church might be able to help in tangible ways that vividly display the love of God. 5. What are some of the most common household concerns in my community?
This is an area God has convicted me to pray about - we seem to be pretty content on programs and events that serve us well. I do not think we are unique in that respect. I pray I am willing to be flexible/fluid/moldable and willing to give up self to accomplish God’s purpose. I think this answer comes in a two-fold “view” of my community: 1. Among the people that are looking for a church in my community, what are THEY looking for in a church:
a. Bible study and prayer groups
b. Personal/Family counseling
c. Spiritual retreats
d. Divorce Recovery
e. Spiritual development 2. Among the TOP concerns (higher than the national average) in the households of my community are:
a. Finding a good church/spiritual teaching
b. Problems in school
c. Teen/child problems
d. Divorce and abusive relationships
e. High level of concern about the “basics” of life – food, housing, jobs, “getting by.”
Truly, we are to be beacons of light to our communities. That means we must be sensitive to the real needs of the people in the shadow of our steeples (and their greatest need is Jesus). To ignore their need is to NOT be a reflection of the Loving Christ we profess to serve.
6. What is my church doing to more effectively minister to the needs of the people that live in my community/do not have a personal relationship with Christ Jesus?
I guess I answered that question above. But it is a real question worthy of our answering. What are we doing right now to reach people for Christ? What will we do in the days ahead?
7. What is God saying to ME personally as a next step in obedience to the call of God to be a good and faithful witness?
As I shared with the people in the 2 prayer services I attended yesterday, it needs to begin in ME. I can cast blame on everyone else, but God is revealing these realities to ME. Therefore, God expects ME to respond to these needs. To NOT be obedient to the revelation and command of God is sin!
If you do not have the answers to these questions for your community/church, then contact me. With 3 or 4 clicks on my computer, I can supply you the answers. PRAY FERVENTLY that God will lead you to minister in His name to the hurting and lost people around you.
In one of the services yesterday, someone mentioned that they were not comfortable in making "cold calls," reaching out to complete strangers. True - many people do not know the names of their neighbors. The person said she and her husband have determined they were going to begin to call people - beginning with the people in their church that are not currently attending. Though that is great, let me throw out another idea (as I did to her). Why not consider calling all your "neighbors?"
If you do not know their names, perhaps I can help you with that as well. Through the Mapping Center, we have access to a database that is supposed to be current within 90 days with the names, address (street by street), along with many phone numbers. As a beginning point, you could invite your neighbors - even though you do not know them - BY NAME to your church/events. MOST IMPORTANTLY, you can begin to pray for your neighbors by name and begin to take note of the needs that exist in their lives as you drive by their homes. I propose you pray for them as if they were lost people in need of Christ Jesus as Savior until you know different. And when you know different, commit to work with them to reach your community for Christ.
If you are interested in reaching your communities and are not aware of the association's resources available to you, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the office at 919-496-7172. Yes - praise the Lord - our email server is back in operation!!!
"You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." Matthew 12:34
"but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so." James 3: 8 - 10
God has called us to be a FAITHFUL WITNESS for Him as we go about life today! There will be lots of opportunities to share where we REALLY are as we make contact with and deal with people that cross our path. Every encounter will NOT be pleasant. There will be stress. There will be problems. There will be difficulties. Bit we are commanded to be faithful witnesses - even if things go not go our way.
One way we reveal where we really are with Christ is in what we say/how we respond. Each of have said some things we wish we could take back. Some were said carelessly. Some were said maliciously. Some were said without thought --BUT they were said. The words we spoke affected someone personally--reflected on the "real" us--and, can never be taken back,
The Scriptures tell us that our tongues have a pipeline directly from our hearts. Truth is, we do speak words that we "feel." It is true that we can cover up our true feelings with nice-sounding words, at times, but over the long course of life, who we really are gets spilled out in the words we speak.
What these verses are revealing to me is that the "speech problem" I OFTEN have is NOT really a problem of me picking the right words to say. It's not just me becoming aggravated at life's circumstances or me getting mad at someone. My actions/words reveal that I have a "heart problem." No, I'm not talking about my physical heart - it's my spiritual heart. I become a part of that "brood of vipers" because I am not guarding my heart/walking with Christ the way that I ought.
James 3 goes to the "heart" of evil/hurtful speech. or not reacting adversely. A speech problem is really a heart problem. This passage reminds us that the tongue, in it’s natural state, is a source of evil and hurt toward others. It tells us than an evil tongue is fueled by the flames of Hell (James 3:6).
I hear people say, "this is who I am......" I pray I will not accept this twist of the truth by Satan that keeps us from becoming who we can BE IN CHRIST. If I accept this as "just who I am," then I cannot experience the transforming power of the Lord Jesus Christ in my life. You see, there is something more wrong with us than simply bad words. Our hearts are corrupted, our tongues poisoned by sin. When Adam and Even fell, the entire human race was injected with the poison of Satan, the venom of evil. So every one of us is born with a powerfully evil tongue. And it’s a tongue that James says, “no man can tame” James 3:7. Yes - this is who I am----and that would seem to be bad news.
EXCEPT---and hear this --it was bad hearts Jesus came to rescue. In his death and resurrection, Jesus crushed that serpent and delivered the antidote for the venom of sin. So----if you really are a follower of Jesus, you no longer have to be a slave to an out-of-control tongue, fueled by a corrupt heart, fed by the flames of Hell. Truth is, Jesus has tamed your tongue!!!
And now, by our submitting to His Spirit in repentance, you can begin to see that tongue used for good rather than evil. That word submit is essential. Please do not see it as demeaning to submit to the Lordship of Christ. Submitting unto the Lord fills your life with an abundance of Joy - it does NOT restrict you or enslave you - it frees us to become all that we can be IN CHRIST. Satan has been pretty successful in getting us to accept ourselves as we are and to see submission unto the Lord as giving up so much/being a negative. That is not true!
The gospel message doesn’t say, “Keep your mouth shut.” No, God designed our tongues to be powerful. But instead of leading people to evil, instead of cutting and wounding, instead of causing so much hurt---our tongues are to be reservoirs of life, to offer words of hope, help, encouragement -- springs of gospel-soaked words that lift, rebuke, encourage, disciple, and love.
As a Christ-follower, you (we) CAN find the grace to overcome a "forked tongue" that ought not to be so much a part of a maturing believer! We find it by daily repentance and cleansing, the Spirit can turn a tongue of evil into a tongue of good.
Remember this---when those words you speak come out different than the words Jesus might speak in that circumstance, they are unacceptable! They are symptoms of a problem. IT's not a word problem--it's a problem with your heart. Take some time today to examine your heart and make the adjustments necessary to proclaim the Gospell to your world today!
“I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.” Psalm 16:8 ESV
In the new movie coming out called UNCONDITIONAL (which is very good), there are a couple of reminders that WE ARE NOT ALONE! That was a lesson TAUGHT by the main character's grandmother; a lesson CAUGHT by the main characher; and a lesson SHARED by the main character to those around him.
Well, this is a verse that needs to be TAUGHT, CAUGHT, and SHARED!! This is the kind of verse that we need to get deep down within us. No matter what comes our way, we will not be shaken because the Lord God Almighty is with us, right next to us, at the ultimate place of power, the only One who can ever do anything to help us.
We are NOT alone! We are NEVER alone!! We are not left out there without assistance. As His word says, "He is..." our help, our refuge, our strength---our ALL for whatever need we have/circumstance we find ourselves in as His followers. God doesn’t "hang us out to dry" or forsake us. We can absolutely depend on Him!!
We just have to do our part by setting him always before us. We have a choice to make, don’t we? As Joshua said, we have to choose THIS day to always set Him before us!! It’s really a simple thing: if we want peace, joy, and victory, we must choose to follow God. Did you HEAR me, if we REALLY want peace, joy, and victory in our lives, then we MUST choose to FOLLOW GOD!
All of these glorious things originate from Him - through Him. We can’t ever hope to have anything wonderful without putting ourselves/our trust in the Lord. Someone once shared with me, "You name it, you’ve conquered it in Jesus—even if you’re going through it right now." That ought to provide some help to you this day as you meditate upon that truth - you HAVE victory RIGHT NOW in the circumstances of life AS YOU trust in Him!
Do you see the bigger picture? God has already set things right. Things have already been made right through Christ Jesus! As we often say, He IS ALL that we need for EVERY circumstance in life! We just have to hang on, keep our head up, and TRUST Him! God is all that He says He is and we can trust Him to provide all we need for this day, and every day to come!
So --- don’t give up! Don't quit. Don’t ever, ever quit. Keep going on this road of faith. Nothing can shake us. We’re on God’s side, and he’s on ours. We have nothing to fear. Trust God always.
Yesterday I saw a bumper sticker. It read "T G I F." and Thank God I'm Forgiven. Well, this morning I remind you of that truth. In Him, you have forgiveness of all sin. As a result, you have His presence in your life this day. And - He is ALL you need. Set Him before you---you will not be shaken!
“”Thus says the LORD who made the earth, the LORD who formed it to establish it – the LORD is his name: Call to me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” Jeremiah 33: 2 – 3 ESV
When my computer popped up this morning, Jeremiah 33: 2 – 3 came up as my “verse of the day.” Last night I had gone to bed early. I was physically drained. I awakened earlier than usual and tried to stay in the bed to rest. I laid there praying for family, friends, staff, pastors, churches, the work of the association, etc. As I prayed, I became “tired all over” again and my mind would often wander to a “what next” kind of question. I determined to get up and start my day, and – if needed – go back to bed to find some physical rest. Then I read this verse first thing! God has a way of speaking to us at the point of our need! This “fresh word” from the Lord refreshed me spiritually and emotionally. Thus, there is some physical energy attached as well.
The “Thus says the LORD…” jumped off the page. The one who has all authority over heaven and earth; the one who created all the heavens and the earth; the one who is sovereign LORD of the universe (and I emphasize LORD), has already spoken it! I need to HEAR it! He promises to reveal Himself to His people as we seek to hear, trust, and obey. The passage reminded me that there is still much I need to learn from my Lord and that I need to devote time to “sit at His feet” and HEAR His words!
My mind then skipped to the parable of the sower. Those of us that are churched are very familiar with the passage. The word of God is being sowed on 4 types of soil, but only one produces anything. There is nothing wrong with the sower (God). There is nothing wrong with His Word. The problem lies in the condition of the soil. Jeremiah reminded me—I have to CALL on Him!
In Matthew 13, we have that parable. Verse 3 in the HCSB reads, “He told them many things in parables, saying: "Consider the sower who went out to sow...” Let us consider that sower a bit.
Good teachers do not just deliver lectures. They help their students picture the material. They speak in terms their listeners will understand. They vividly portray/use techniques that allow their listeners to “see” the lessons being taught to them.
We know that when Jesus had an important lesson for those following Him, He showed them what He wanted them to know by telling parables – painting word pictures. Often times, He shared the parable with the crowd and then “dug deeper” with His small group (the disciples) to more fully discuss and illustrate. Jesus talked about things that were part of their experience, such as farming and fishing, food and nature.
The “parable of the sower” taught His followers about genuine faith. As stated, it talked about four types of soil, all of which received the same seed. He compared this to the four ways people respond to the same gospel. As we think of this parable, we are reminded of the lessons He taught: (1) Satan prevents some from understanding the gospel, (2) Others respond immediately, but soon fall away, (3) Others accept Christ but fall victim to worldly pressures, (4) But some hear it, receive it, and grow in their faith. The first three types of soil produce no crop, but the fourth type of soil represents those who make a difference in God's kingdom.
As I meditated upon these scriptures this morning, I thought about God saying to me in Jeremiah that I needed to call on Him. His assurance, He has great and hidden things that He desires to share with me. Did you HEAR that – God has great things He wants to share with His followers! I need to call upon the LORD!
Consider each of the four soil types Jesus talked about in this parable. Then think about your own response to the gospel. Another question popped out to me in reflecting on this parable of Matthew 13 – has God’s Word produced everything it is supposed to produce in my life? Well, when you consider that this soil is not always ready to receive the seed the sower is planting, my answer is no. Therefore, I must call out to the Lord and strive this day to walk closely with Him!
My question to each of my readers today is this, “Has God's Word produced everything it's supposed to in your life?” If not, what is your response to the LORD this day?
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Colossians 3: 1 – 4 ESV
I guess from the title you would expect the key scripture to be Joshua 24: 15 – “And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Actually, the original scripture I read this morning that prompted these thoughts was Daniel 3: 15. In an odd kind of way, God appears to be reminding me that the truth of His Word is interwoven. The truth declared by Joshua, or the truth declared by Daniel, or the truth declared by the Apostle Paul serves as the truth that is to guide my life.
As I began my day this morning, I looked to a devotional from Experiencing God Day by Day. It was entitled a “Facing a God-Sized Choice.” The scripture was Daniel 3: 15 and reads this way in the ESV -- “Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”
Though this was the dilemma before the persons of choice Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego at that moment, it is also the choice of each of us each day. No, we are not “thrown into the fiery furnace” or the lions’ den as Daniel for our choices (at least at the moment in this country), but we face similar God-sized choices. You might ask, “What is a God-sized choice?” I think the answer is anything that calls you to abandon God’s ways and put on the world’s.
Joshua came to that point, challenged God’s people with the truth that they had to choose, and boldly declared the choice he had made in his household. In Daniel 3: 15, as well as elsewhere in Daniel with the choice of Daniel, Daniel and these three men faced the choice to abandon God and worship man.
When I read the Daniel 3 account, I immediately thought of our youth lesson the other night. Thus the scripture basis for this writing, Colossians 3. The idea that we are to “set our minds on things above…..” Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did not wake up one morning and – out of the blue – face the dilemma of rejecting God and embrace the ways of the world, as YOUNG MEN (in their teens at the time of their capture) they resolved to follow God. They set their minds on God, determined to live in accordance with his truth, and when an earthly king who saw himself bigger than God demanded their allegiance or they would face the fiery furnace or the lions’ den, they had no reason to fret or worry. They had been experiencing the presence and security of the Living God throughout their lives and KNEW they could trust God with this passing circumstance.
Nebuchadnezzar said worship me/pray to me or I will destroy you. But they chose to worship and pray to God. This man who thought he was greater than God said, “…if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” VIVIDLY he was shown that he was not the greatest as the fourth man in the fire protected and preserved, In the Lions Den, Daniel experienced the same protection.
Yes, there have been countless Christ-followers through the ages who have made the same choice – to follow God and not the ways of man. Their story includes persecution and sometimes a martyr’s death, but still there is the presence, protection, and provision of that “fourth man” in the fire. This world is not our home. Our eyes are not on the present, they are on the prize of being with Christ for all eternity.
The Apostle Paul testified in Philippians 1: 21 that “to live is Christ, to die is gain.” He had learned what each of us needs to learn, our security is not found in ever-changing circumstance. Our security is found in Christ Jesus as Savior and Lord of all. That security enables us to live for Him daily and trust Him with every aspect of this life and the life to come.
The devotional thought read this way: “Daniel's friends faced a God-sized choice: believe the government or believe God. Government offered food, shelter, and rescue from death. God offered an invisible protection from life's problems and hope for life beyond. Human wisdom had no problem making the choice. Faith faced a crisis. How do you respond today when God's ways contradict sound economic advice?”
So, the question before us today is not JUST how do we respond when God’s ways contradict the sound economic advice of the world. The question is, how do we respond when choosing God conflicts with anything and everything about the ways of the world. The other night, I challenged our youth to “set their minds on things above.” To resolve, as Daniel and his friends did at a young age, to be obedient to God NO MATTER THE WORLD. That is my counsel to the “youth” of every age.
The world is daily saying you must choose their ways. The world is saying, if you not choose the ways of the world you are foolish and you will face the consequences of your choice. The world is saying if you choose this way, there is no change of advancement or you might be “destroyed.” The Lord is saying, Trust Me—try Me-prove Me! Eternal rewards are awaiting us when we trust and obey!
I challenge you this day, to set your minds on things above and choose to follow Christ. I promise you the fulfillment that comes with complete surrender to the Living Lord!
Placing Christ In His Rightful Place
“The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore, my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:5-11 (ESV)
There is so much that “jumps out” when we read God’s Word. There is instruction, encouragement, examples of faithfulness, guidance, etc. that illustrate vividly the path we are to take as followers of Christ. When we do more in depth study of the text, or simply come to understand the culture of the day, the scripture often takes on a deeper/fuller impact on our understanding. This passage is such a passage!
Psalm 16:8 above reads, “I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.”
In the culture of David’s day, a person’s closest friend and advisor would usually sit at the right of the person. Thus, we know the saying, “right hand man.” In the New Testament, the writer of Hebrews refers to Jesus as sitting down after His resurrection "at the right hand of the Majesty on high." God gave Christ Jesus the highest honor that exists in heaven or on earth.
With that knowledge, we begin to more fully understand the significance of what David was saying in Psalm 16. BY acknowledging God's place at his "right hand," he is making a huge statement in a small phrase! He is stating emphatically that God occupies the most important position in his life. He is declaring that God has priority over every other person in his life and every other thing that could occupy his attention. He is saying to all that God is his closest friend and his trusted advisor.
David had come to learn through the experiences of life that he would be nowhere without the guidance and protection of God. He had come to the point that there was no question about where to put his trust. I think there is a truth we all can see in the accounts of David’s - as long as God was in His rightful place in David's life, David could take on anything the world had to offer. With God in His rightful place, come what may, David would not be afraid, could take on any enemy, and slayed the giants in his life. We can also see in the accounts of David’s life that when God was NOT in His rightful place that David, the people around him, and the entire nation of suffered! There is a great lesson for us today in this one statement. .
We need to realize that we can live with the same confidence that David did. That is WHEN we reserve the most high place in our lives for our Lord Jesus Christ! The piercing question before us is this, “Have we reserved the most important place in your life for God, or have you given the honor seat to someone (or something) else?” The truth is, only one guest can sit at your right hand.
Matthew 6: 33 tells us that we MUST seek FIRST Christ and His righteousness. To experience the fullness of Christ today, we must place Him in His rightful place. If someone else sits in that seat, you will be like David when he allowed something or someone else to occupy the seat at his right hand. However, if we make Him LORD of ALL, then we can experience the fullness of life that David is referring to in this Psalm.
Pray today that we will grow closer to our Living Lord Jesus Christ. Pray that we will place Him in His rightful seat of honor in our lives. Pray that we will LISTEN and HEAR the counsel of our Lord as we seek to honor Him with our lives THIS day!
Mark 12:30 “And you shall love the Lord your God out of and with your whole heart and out of and with your soul (your life) and out of and with your mind (with your faculty of thought and your moral understanding) and out of and with all your strength. This is the first and principal commandment.” (The Amplified Bible)
Last night, I continued to lead a three-week Bible study on Pursuing Christ (this was week two and it may turn into a 5-week - LOL). The overall study is based on Matthew 6: 33, “ But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” We are dealing with the three key words in that verse – seek, first, and righteousness. This week, we dealt with the term first.
Is Christ REALLY first in your life? The key verse we used to look at this term is Mark 12:30. The principal commandment Jesus emphasized when asked “what is the greatest commandment?” is to love God more than anything (Dougald McLaurin paraphrased – LOL), and then the second is to love our neighbors!
What does it look like to “love God more than anything else?” I think we all need to examine our walk with the Lord and address this issue. If Jesus Christ is LORD of our lives and we are genuinely placing Him first in our daily lives, then our lives should look markedly different than people who have not accepted Christ. That is true for 16 year olds, 116 year olds, and all of us in between!
In our study I asked them some simple “thought questions:”
• What does it mean that Jesus is to be LORD/master of EVERYTHING?
• What does the word ALL mean?
• What does it mean to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength?
• If Jesus is really first, then how is that displayed in the way we live our lives each day?
I believe these are questions we all need to answer in our daily lives. People around us need to see a real difference because we say Jesus is important to us. In fact, we sometimes sing “Jesus is all the world to me,” and what we really mean is SOMETIMES, He is all (with a very loose interpretation of the word all) the world to me.
Simple answer to be included in each of the above questions – everything means everything, all means all, and lord means lord (master of everything). As you set out this day, is Jesus Christ truly Lord of ALL in your life? If yes, then think about how that is to be displayed as you go throughout your day. If not, then what is holding you back from allowing Him to be Lord of ALL for you? What idols are you holding on to?
I challenged our youth to pray and seek counsel from the Lord through His word by choosing a life verse to help guide them through this season of their lives. I shared several of mine through the years, beginning as a teenager to this day. It was funny as I reflected upon the different verses through the years how they were applicable to what was going on in my life at the time. When I was immature in my walk and I was “learning” what it meant to be Christian, God gave me Ephesians 4: 17, 30, and then Ephesians 5: 1 – 2. Today it is 2 Corinthians 11: 28. In between, there has been several, but all have served to remind me of God’s expectations of His people during those seasons of my life and served as a quick guide to the way I am to live as a responsible follower of Christ.
Just in case you are wondering, the “nuggets” of the above life verses are simple and direct:
• In Ephesians 4: 17 Jesus says to me, Dougald do not live like a lost person…..
• In Ephesians 4: 30 Jesus says to me, Dougald do not cause the Holy Spirit sorrow by the way you live your life today…..
• Ephesians 5: 1 – 2 says, Dougald if you don’t know what to do, just imitate me….present yourself as a living sacrifice—one that is pleasing and acceptable to God….
• And 2 Corinthians 11: 28 reminds me, in addition to everything else before you, God has called you to be actively engaged in strengthening His church. As Paul declared in this verse, “besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.”
I challenge you as you begin this day, to examine your life – is Jesus REALLY first? Have you made Him LORD of ALL? Perhaps you need to pray and seek a personal word from the Lord in a life verse that will guide you in this season of your life. You will NOT know God fully, nor experience that “life more abundant” Jesus came to give until you surrender all to Him.
“And I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you shall heed My ordinances and do them.” Ezekiel 36: 37 Amplified Bible
After I listed my prayer for the church as we gather for worship today, someone commented, “Praying that the Holy Spirit will so fill us today that God will be lifted up and glorified in all we say and do!” What a wonderful prayer as we prepare to worship together as the BODY of Christ. In fact, this is such an appropriate prayer for each day of our lives as we strive to live a life that honors our Lord and brings people to Him.
The thought occurred to me – it is Holy Spirit, living in us, that prompts us to answer God’s invitation to come to Him/live for Him. When you and I LISTEN to His Spirit that lives within us, He will always lead us to the right decision when we face those daily “crisis of beliefs.” Unfortunately, it appears we are often not listening to Him and we go our own way. But as believers, we should pray that prayer that was commented above – pray that the Holy Spirit will so fill us that TODAY God will be lifted up and glorified in ALL we SAY—and ALL we DO!
What a revival would break out in His church today if that prayer was answered! And it should be easily answered, as it should be the heart’s desire of every Christ follower! What a difference it would make in our world for us to faithfully obey the prompts of Holy Spirit to live for Him and be His witness to the lost and hurting people that cross our paths daily.
I have modified my brayer just a bit:
Holy Spirit, live in me this day! So dominate my thoughts that in all things I hear what You are saying to me and what You are calling me to do. Holy Spirit, take away the self-centeredness that makes me ignore You. Clear my heart of the sin and attitude that keeps me from hearing Your voice and being obedient to Your guidance. Holy Spirit, bring to pass this day what You have purposed for me. I love You. My desire is to serve You. Make me who I need to be in Christ, so that others will see Christ in me and come to know You personally. In the precious, powerful name of Jesus, I pray. Amen!