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Archive for August, 2018

All of God’s Paths

August 30th, 2018

All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies. (Psalm 25:10 ESV)

In life, we will either embrace the ways and the paths of God, and in meekness submit all of strength and talents and spiritual gifts under Christ’s Lordship, or we will do as Paul did initially and “kick against the goads,” or fight His leadership like a stubborn farm animal.

The leadership of the Lord encompasses both how we do things and what we do in life. If we will keep His covenant and testimonies we will hold on to both of these matters of how and what – just one of them is not enough. The “covenant and testimonies” of God are His covenant of grace toward us and His Holy Word the Bible. In David’s day, the Mosaic Covenant was the means by which God’s grace was expressed.Today, we are in the New Covenant or New Testament and respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ in faith.

The Expositor’s Bible sums this up like this:

They who accept His teaching, and order their paths as He would have them do, will learn that the impulse and meaning of all which He does to them are “mercy and truth,” the two great attributes to which the former petitions appealed, and which the humble of heart, who observe the conditions of God’s covenant which is witness of His own character and of their duty, will see gleaming with lambent light even in calamities.

A small and rather obscure devotional book, entitled Beyond Call, has been a continual blessing to me in my walk with Christ, especially since I have served most of my years overseas in cross-cultural situations. Baker James Cauthen, the long-time General Secretary of the Foreign Mission Board of Southern Baptists (now the International Mission Board), compiled this book of the devotions he gave to the missionaries that they were sending out to serve around the world. They were originally commencement type addresses given at the completion of missionary orientation.

But they speak to every Christian and every servant of God. In one of these devotions, he spoke on the verse above:

The thing about this  verse of Scripture that is most striking and helpful to me is the very first word with which it begins: “All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness.” Now, that is often hard to understand, and a little hard to believe in the gray days because not all the paths are pleasant to walk. Some paths are very difficult. It would be quite unrealistic to think that the pathways before you in missionary service will always be pleasant. The labor to which you have given yourself is labor characterized by a cross.

When you become willing to do whatever God wants you to do, even if it appears undesirable, you discover that what God has for you is much better than anything you plan…

Walking these pathways is not a matter that is in proportion to your understanding, but in proportion to your faith in him. Put your trust in him, and let him make the plans, and revise your own plans. Let him determine the bright days and the dark days; let him give the victories and the defeats, and let him shape life as he sees best. You will then discover that as you hold on to him in this covenant of faith – the pathways for you are filled with love and faithfulness.

And there is in this entire matter the issue of just being yourself, of obeying the will of the Lord for you, and not for someone else. My paths that I choose outside the will of God will not bring the love and faithfulness of God that God desires to give us. John the Baptist said, “A man can only receive that which is given him from heaven” (John 3:27). God’s will and His leadership will bring us joy and peace, the joy of a clear conscience, and the peace of knowing that we have done what God made us to do, and did it how He called us to do it.

An old story was told about a young Christian girl who was unhappy with her life. She knew the scripture that she must bear her cross, but her cross seemed too drab, too common place, and even too heavy sometimes. She longed for a better life. One night she dreamed of different crosses that she could bear.

One was made of gold and decorated with jewels, and she thought that she would like to bear that cross. But as she tried to lift it and to carry it, she found it was much heavier than she thought, and after a few steps she faltered and knew that she could not carry this one.

Then she saw another cross decorated with flowers, the cross of beauty, and again she thought that it was much better than her drab cross, so she lifted it on her back to carry. But she found that beneath the flowers were thorns that tore into her back, and the pain was much greater than she thought.

One after another, she tried other crosses with a similar result – too heavy, too rough, unfitting, not right.

Then she saw another cross and she came to it to lift it, and it fit perfectly on her back. It was her original cross that God had made for her to carry.

We should not envy the paths that God has called others to walk – paths of wealth, beauty, fame, power, talent, health, or whatever. Their crosses are for them to carry and not us. We should simply in gratitude embrace the path God has called us to walk and the cross that God has called us to bear. That is the path of peace and joy, of His love and His faithfulness.

 

Daily Devotions, Psalms

Keeping Your Heart Pure

August 29th, 2018

Do not let my heart incline to any evil,
to busy myself with wicked deeds
in company with men who work iniquity,
and let me not eat of their delicacies! (Psalm 141:4 ESV)

As children we would take baths Saturday nights and on Sunday morning when we woke up for breakfast, our parents would tell us to wash our hands before we sat down at the table. “But we just took a bath last night,” we would protest. But they would say to us that our hands had gotten dirty again over night, and needed to be washed again.

This is also true of our hearts. We live in an impure, sinful world and temptations are all around us, and even within us. Even after a wonderful time of worship, or of study of God’s word, our hearts are so easily caught up in something impure again, that we need regular times of confession of sin and soaking before the goodness of the Lord. There is not a man or a woman on this earth, no matter how long they have been a Christian or how much they have served or how deeply devoted they are, that does not still need to search their heart and get rid of the impure thoughts and habits of their lives.

Crying out to the Lord for help

David begins his psalm: “O LORD, I call upon you; hasten to me!” (Psalm 141:1) He knew that he could not do this on his own, no doubt he had tried often. His cry is the one we recognize ourselves for we have said the same thing to God – “Oh, God, help me do what I cannot do.” This is not only proper theology, but it is also practical theology. In our prayer we should develop the habit of expressing to God our dependency on Him – and not to do it as merely a habit of expression but to let it come from our own heart.

He specifically cries out about his “heart” and in Hebrew this means his mind, thoughts, or his soul, as we would commonly say. He recognizes his inner thoughts and values are where he needs to experience God’s help. As he wrote elsewhere, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psa. 51:10).

There is a great theological debate about what part of this matter we must depend on God to do and what part we must do ourselves – or how do we express these thoughts in words. Whatever formula of words we have come up with, or percentages of what we do and what God does, one thing must be clear: we cannot do this without God. He is essential in this matter of purity of heart.

Busying our hands with the right things

David also prayed about his “mouth” and his “hands,” practical considerations on words and actions. There is a connection between our thoughts and our actions, and it is a two-way street. Of the two, the heart is more important. Christ said, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34). Solomon wrote, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Prov. 4:23).

But our actions are also important. The righteous woman is said not to “eat the bread of idleness” (Prov. 31:27). An old Christian discipline has been to busy ourselves with activities for God. It was commonly thought in former times “idle hands are the devil’s playground.” We live in a day where entertainment is a large part of our lives, and, I am afraid, most of it is not godly, or even goodly. In fact, a great deal of it is horribly evil.

Our hearts and our hands and our mouths should all be going in the same direction. We should be wise and discreet about what we do and when we do it. We should consider the command to the former thief: “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need” (Eph. 4:28).

Choose your friends wisely

David also knew that he should choose godly companions, and avoid ungodly people – “men who work iniquity.” Every friendship we make we should be careful about. Compassion is one thing – and we should reach out in compassion to ungodly people – but we should make sure that we are drawing them toward God and that they are not drawing us away from God and godly things. Their “delicacies,” or the things they consider important and valuable, are ungodly, not godly.

If our hearts will be pure then our lives must be different. (1) Cry out to God for His help – which is essential if our thoughts will be right – and take time to meditate on His Word, (2) choose healthy and godly things to do with your hands, (3) choose good people to be your closest friends, and do not abuse your leisure time with ungodly activity. Seek to help others, and you yourself will be blessed in the process.

Psalms