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Archive for June, 2016

Who the Lord Delights In

June 30th, 2016

The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love. (Psalm 147:11)

God made us in order that we might know him in true humility of heart. So far as we have lifted ourselves up with pride to any degree - even if it is over the least of all people - we will be unpleasing to God. His joy, his power, his direction, his approval will be as far from us as our pride is above others - even the least of others.

“Fearing the Lord” is an expression of humility. To fear God is not to see him as mean-spirited and vengeful, for the psalmist in the verse above weds the fear of the Lord to hoping in his unfailing love. To fear the Lord means to hold him in the utmost respect and reverence, that he is the One whom we seek to please in all of life, because we believe there is a spiritual benefit in doing so.

All good spiritual traits are first found in the nature of God and God is the perfect example of humility of heart. God is completely obedient to his own nature of love and holiness. Christ humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross, and in doing so he revealed his divinity (Phil. 2:6-8). Just as he was fully God in his nature in heaven, so he was also the perfect expression of God’s humility in his lowering himself to be born among men and to even die for the sins of the world.

While we are not to admire the sinfulness of humanity, neither should we look with disdain upon anyone, rather we should see all people through the love of God in Christ for them. Paul described himself as “the chief of sinners,” revealing his humility of heart. There will be people whom we learn not to trust, with whom we learn not to share secrets, or to trust with confidential information. But we still must see them in love and compassion.

The command of Christ for us to pray for our enemies, “that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:44-45), means more than to merely say a mindless prayer on their behalf. Rather it is a call for us to take them before the throne of grace earnestly and sincerely as the Spirit leads us to do so. God may place them on our hearts for a protracted period to teach us humility. Daily as we pray for them - without condoning their wrong-doing or their disdain for us - we are doing more than just our Christian duty; we are also learning what it means to fear God and to trust in his unfailing love.

And if we judge them when we pray for them, the Spirit may simply release them from our hearts - once we have done our Christian duty to pray - because we are being tempted with pride and a judgmental spirit.  God told Samuel to stop grieving about the failure of King Saul, to go instead to the house of Jesse where he would reveal to him who the next king would be (1 Sam. 16:1). And there are times in our lives that God will also lead us to release people into his hands and to move on to the positive things that Christ is doing in the world.

To have disdain for a person will be felt and expressed differently depending on how we see them in relation to ourselves. If we have disdain toward someone we consider above us in status we will feel resentment toward them. Someone who is on our own level we will feel anger toward. Someone we consider below us we will feel contempt for. But if we may see everyone like us and ourselves like everyone else, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23), then we will have sympathy toward others.

The ground at the foot of the cross is level, meaning that all of us simply come in our own need and bow before Christ. The notorious sinner and the decent citizen both must come to God through Christ. Satan is constantly seeking to tempt us with pride, for pride will destroy us more surely and completely than anything else.

Submit your heart to the eternal love of God in Christ, put your hope in his unfailing love, and let his love lead you where he wants you to go.

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The Power of Speech

June 29th, 2016

Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! (Psalm141:3)

Our words have the power to wow people, to say something precious, beautiful, and uplifting.

Our words also have the power to wound people, to say something painful, hurtful, and destroying.

The psalmist prayed that God would prevent him from saying those things that he would regret later. We may regret our words because they would come back to harm us. We can say things in anger that can create enemies, and none of us needs more enemies.

But a more important matter is that we may say things that can work against the purposes of God. We may hurt people when we should have been blessing them. We may discourage them when we should have been encouraging them.

It is especially true that we may use our words to bring shame to the name of Christ. Or we may not speak up when we should. Christ said:

But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned. (Matthew 12:36-38)

The image of the psalm is our bodies as a castle or a walled city, and our lips are the gates that allow thoughts to come out into the open. No matter how precious and considerate our thoughts are they are expressed through our words. We may harbor love as well as anger in our hearts, but neither of these would be known without speaking.

This also applies to God in worship. Solomon wrote:

Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. (Ecclesiastes 5:2)

With God also our words should be the reflection of thought and considerate of his purpose and will for our lives.

So be careful with your speech. Use your words to lift people up, to bless and encourage, and to give a witness to Christ.

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