Tuesday, July 23, 2019

the display of His Splendor

artwork by Krista Hamrick

As I pondered this beautiful artwork by Krista Hamrick I felt led to do a word study based on Isaiah 61:3:

NIV: They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.

ESV: that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.

The Message: Rename them “Oaks of Righteousness” planted by God to display His glory.

NET: They will be called oaks of righteousness, trees planted by the Lord to reveal His splendor.

NLV: Then they will be called oaks that are right with God, planted by the Lord, that He may be honored.

Oaks of righteousness: The Hebrew word for “righteousness” is “tsedhāqāh” reflecting “honesty, integrity, liberation. It is righteous conduct that issues from a new heart.”

Righteousness tsedhāqāh conveys the idea of that which is straight and so one who is upright or righteous is one who walks a straight path. The root thought is that which conforms to an ethical or moral standard. The first use of tsedhāqāh in Genesis 15:6 is informative as it describes the righteousness that God decreed of Abram when he believed in the Lord and His promises. So the righteousness described here in Isaiah 61:3 is supernaturally (Spirit) enabled righteous thoughts, words, and deeds before God and before men. Tsedhāqāh can be used of all God's works in human history, all his victories on behalf of his people. Salvation is often paralleled with God's righteousness.

David calls upon God to deliver him in his righteousness. It was this kind of use of righteousness that captured Martin Luther's attention and led to his great breakthrough realization of the doctrine of salvation by grace. In his human thinking, Luther could not connect God's righteous expectations, over which he felt condemnation, with God's salvation. Living up to God's standard is not possible in ourselves. Finally, the truth came alive in Luther that God's righteousness not only means judgment on sin, but his gracious gift of the solution to the sin problem to all who repent of their sin and receive the gospel by faith. What human ability cannot do, God provides to those who turn to Him and acknowledge their need—both right standing and enablement to live in it. Isaiah pictured righteousness as God adorning us with a rich robe in his love for us (Isa. 61:10). The most familiar verse concerning righteousness, and the one quoted by Paul in Galatians 3:6, is Genesis 15:6, "[Abram] believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him as righteousness." By faith, Abraham had a right relationship with God; he fulfilled the Lord's expectations of his life. Christ came to set the captives free so “they may be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”

Celebrate the fruit of righteousness that reaps honesty, integrity, and liberation in us. No matter what our strongholds have been, God can plant us deeply in His love, grow us by the water of His Word, and call us “oaks of righteousness.” We can be called persons of honesty, integrity, and liberation. From the definition, these results come only to those who have allowed God to create in each of them a new and clean heart. Strongholds can include self-righteousness, arrogance, and a judgmental spirit.

Display of His splendor:  The Hebrew word is the same for both the words “display” and “splendor,” it is “pa’ar,” which means “to embellish, beautify, adorn; to glorify; be glorified; to bring honor, give honor; to boast.” To display God’s splendor is to radiate His beauty. We are called to be the radiance of God’s beauty on this earth. To be a display of God’s splendor is to be someone God can boast about! The more we gaze on the beauty of the Lord as we seek Him in His temple, the more our lives absorb and radiate His splendor. A living and visible portrait of the beauty of God.

We fulfill the high calling to display His splendor when we reach up and fully receive the benefits He bowed low to give us. 

The first benefit of our covenant relationship with God is to know God and Believe Him (Isaiah 43:9). If you bask in knowing God and dare to believe Him, someone close by has seen truth through your witness whether or not you are aware of the effectiveness of your testimony. Without a doubt, the more you know God, the more you want to know God. The more time you spend with Him, the more you will yearn for Him. No one has to force a person who is intimately acquainted with God to be a living witness. Pray for a yearning for God that draws you over and over into His presence. A yearning that makes only a few days without time in prayer and His Word seem like an eternity. Pray for a heart that wants Him more than anything else He could give. Ask God to give you a heart to love Him and know Him more than anything in life. More than anything on earth, pray to know Him. It is not enough for you to know Him and believe Him, you will want everyone else to know Him, too! What He has made known to you, you will want to make re-known to everyone else. Pray for a heart that makes His Name and renown the desire of your heart! Pray to roll away the obstacle of unbelief which is revealed in our doubt, fear, worry, and discouragement.

The second benefit of our covenant relationship with God is to Glorify God (Isaiah 43:7) God’s glory is the way He makes Himself known or shows Himself mighty. When God seeks to glorify Himself through an individual, He proves who He is by causing the believer to be what is otherwise impossible and to do what is otherwise impossible. Pray each morning to have the Holy Spirit woo you once again to the place where you meet with God. The God of grace bows low and meets with us. In the simplicity of our prayer time, we can pray to be suddenly confronted by the majesty of our Redeemer, The One who is responsible for any good in us. Our past sins are forgiven and fresh mercies fall like manna from heaven. Once again, our heart is moved and we surrender all. Pray to roll away the obstacle of pride which is self-absorption, whether we are absorbed with how wonderful we are or how miserable we are, revealed in our self-focus, self-righteousness, self-sufficiency.

The third benefit of our covenant relationship with God is to find satisfaction in God (Isaiah 55:2) The satisfied soul is never a more beautiful display of God’s splendor than when willing to empty self for the lives of others. Pray to roll away the obstacle of idolatry which is putting any affection for anything else ahead of or instead of Jesus Christ. Pray Psalm 90:14 “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.” Pastor John Piper has said, “God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in Him.”

The fourth benefit of our covenant relationship with God is to experience God’s peace (Isaiah 48:18 ) Peace is an eye-catching display of God’s splendor. The key to peace in each of our lives is to be submitted to God’s authority through obedience, a “long obedience in the same direction.” Joy will ultimately flow from obedience, and few things display God’s splendor any more appealingly than joy. Peace is the fruit of righteousness which, in essence, is obedience to God’s commands—the product of abiding in the vine. Joy will eventually flow from the fruit of peace produced by righteousness. Pray to roll away the obstacle of praylessness. Prayerless lives are powerless lives; prayerful lives are powerful lives. Peace is the fruit of authority—let the peace of Christ rule. Christ brings His peace where He is Prince—the Prince of Peace.

The fifth benefit of our covenant relationship with God is to enjoy God’s presence (Isaiah 43:2-3) What does scripture mean by the phrase “hope in the Lord’? The Hebrew word for “hope” (KJV, “wait upon”) is “qawah,” meaning “to bind together (by twisting)…to be gathered together, be joined, to meet; to be in wait for someone, to expect…to be confident, to be enduring.” If we want to keep a renewed strength to face our daily challenges or regain a strength that has faded, God’s Word tells us to draw so close to the presence of God we’re practically twisted to Him—to wrap ourselves so tightly around God that we end up automatically going where He’s going. Pray to roll away the obstacle of legalism with a heart which desires an intimate, personal relationship with my Lord Jesus Christ, not rules, regulations, and religion.

I discovered a wonderful acrostic memory tool for the word, “praise,
” which I have applied as a prayer format during my quiet time each morning and as I prayer-walk:
Praise
Repentance
Acknowledgement
Intercession
Supplication
Equipping

PRAISE: I begin my prayer time with praise. I repeat to God a few of the attributes the Scripture records for him. I sometimes repeat to Him the words to a hymn or worship chorus.  Philippians 4:6 says, “In everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” I incorporate thanksgiving into every aspect of my prayer time. As I praise Him, I thank Him for choosing to reveal Himself to me.

REPENTANCE: After I have spent several minutes in praise and worship, I enter a time of confession and repentance. I confess sins of the thought life such as wrong motives, negativism, a critical spirit, or even right words with a wrong heart. As I repent, I thank Him for His faithfulness to forgive my sins.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT: Having praised Him and been purified by Him, I am ready to submit to God’s authority. I acknowledge His right to rule and reign in my life every day. Then willingly and deliberately I submit myself to His Lordship—one day at a time. I deliberately surrender to His Lordship with my heart.  I acknowledge Him as Lord and thank Him for being so trustworthy with His authority.

INTERCESSION: I ask God to burden my heart with specific people He wants me to intercede for each day. As I intercede for others, I thank Him for being my Great High Priest and adding power to my petitions.

SUPPLICATION: I enter into a time of prayer for myself. God has called each of us to love Him, serve Him, and live holy lives. I can only know Him intimately when I bring Him my innermost thoughts, fears, hurts, gains, losses, and desires. I ask Him to give me a heart to love Him more and to fill any empty places in my heart with the safety of His love. In supplication for myself, I thank Him for knowing me intimately and desiring that I know Him.

EQUIPPING: I conclude my prayer time by asking Him to equip me in every way for a victorious day. I ask Him to give me eyes that “see” Him and ears sensitized to “hear” Him. I ask Him to give me a heart to respond when He opens a door of opportunity, and to empower me to witness as He leads. As I ask for equipping, I thank Him for never calling on me to do anything He will not readily equip me to accomplish.

During my study of scripture, I came to a place in my life where I wanted, more than anything else, to love God more. I began to pray, Lord, I want to delight in you! God is so inconceivably good. He’s not looking for perfection. He already saw it in Christ. He’s looking for affection. That’s why every lasting change will invariably be a change of heart. He’ll even supply the heart, if we’ll ask Him.

Lord Jesus, give me a heart which longs to be a planting of the Lord for the display of Your splendor. Give me a heart which yearns for Your Presence, a yearning for You that draws me over and over into Your Presence, a yearning that makes only a few days without time in prayer and Your Word seem like an eternity. Give me a heart which is motivated first and foremost by a desire for You, not for what You can do for me, but a yearning for Your Presence. Give me a heart that wants You more than anything else You could give, to love You and know You more than anything in life. Give me a heart that takes what You have made known to me and makes You re-known to everyone else, a heart that makes Your name and renown the desire of my heart. Give me a heart to feel Your Holy Spirit woo me once again to the place where I meet You. In the simplicity of my prayer time, give me a heart to be suddenly confronted by the majesty of my Redeemer—the One Who is responsible for any good in me. Lord, each morning, give me a heart that seeks Your forgiveness for past sins, and welcomes Your fresh mercies which fall like manna from Heaven, and once again move my heart. I surrender all. Morning after morning. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

Look Up—meditate on Isaiah 61:3 … pray to see what it reveals about the character of God.

Look In—as you meditate on Isaiah 61:3 … pray to see how you might apply it to your life. Be propelled to ask galvanizing questions about your discoveries: "Because God is_________, I will_____________."

Look Out—as you meditate on Isaiah 61:3  …pray to see how you might apply it to your relationships with others. Let the nature of God impact on every relationship, for your good, and for His glory.

* If you liked this post, you’ll love this book – Name Above All Names Devotional: Focusing on 26 Alphabetical Names of Christ


Sunday, July 7, 2019

the Great Shepherd of the sheep

artwork by Krista Hamrick

This beautiful artwork by Krista Hamrick reminded me of the warm feelings I had when I was a little girl, growing up at First Baptist Church of Lakeland. Our pastor at that time, Dr. Arthur Rich, would close every morning worship service with this Scripture benediction from Hebrews 13:20-21. I can still hear his lilting Canadian accent powerfully praying God’s Word over us as we left each worship service:
Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that Great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Our pastor, Dr. Arthur Rich, would close the evening worship services with this tender benediction prayer:

And now as the people go their many scattered ways, may Thy blessings as bright as the morning light when it dawneth, as gracious as the dew when the eventide cometh, as tender as a mother's goodnight kiss, go with each one of these our friends tonight and all the days and nights that lie ahead through Jesus Christ our blessed Lord and Savior. Amen


These beautiful scripture-based prayers led me to a word study of the word, shepherd, from 
Isaiah 40:11: He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart.

Pastor Charles Haddon Spurgeon writes: “He is not the great Shepherd when He dies; He is the good Shepherd. He is the great Shepherd when He is brought again from the dead. In resurrection you perceive His greatness. He lies in the grave slumbering; He is the good Shepherd then, having laid down His life for the sheep. Life appears again in Him, the stone is rolled away, the watchmen are seized with terror, and He comes out the risen one, no more the dying—now He is the great Shepherd. In the covenant we are the sheep; the Lord Jesus is the Shepherd. You cannot make a covenant with sheep—they have not the ability to covenant. But you can make a covenant with the Shepherd for them, and so, glory be to God, though we had gone astray like lost sheep, we belonged to Jesus. He made a covenant on our behalf, and stood for us before the living God. It is very beautiful to trace the shepherds through the Old Testament, and to see Christ as Abel, the witnessing shepherd, pouring out the blood that cried from the ground; as Abraham, the separating shepherd, leading out his flock into the strange country where they dwelt alone; as Isaac, the quiet shepherd, digging wells for his flock, and feeding them in peace in the midst of the enemies; as Jacob, the shepherd who is surety for the sheep, who earns them all by long toils and weariness, separates them, and walks in the midst of them to Canaan, preserving them by his own lone midnight prayers. There, too, we see our Lord as Joseph, the shepherd who is head over Egypt for the sake of Israel, of whom his dying father said, “From there is the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel” (Gen 49:24). Head over all things for His church, the King who governs all the world for the sake of His elect, the great Shepherd of the sheep, who for their sakes has all power committed unto His hands. Then follows Moses, the chosen shepherd, who led his people through the wilderness up to the promised land, feeding them with manna and giving them drink from the smitten rock—what a wide theme for reflection here! And then there is David, the type of Jesus, reigning in the covenanted inheritance over his own people as a glorious king in the midst of them all. All these together enable us to see the varied glories of “that great Shepherd of the sheep.”

Shepherd (poimen is from a root meaning to protect) (verb poimaino = to shepherd) literally describes one who cares for a flock. One who herds, feeds, and tends a flock. A herdsman. A sheep herder. The main responsibility of the shepherd was to keep the flock intact, to protect and to provide for the sheep. Metaphorically poimen described one who assumes leadership or guardianship over a group of believers. As alluded to above, this title is applied to Jesus Christ in Scripture.

A shepherd is one who carries out oversight, protecting, leading, encouraging, discipling, guarding, guiding and feeding ("feed and lead"). English dictionaries say that "to shepherd" means to guide, direct or guard in the manner of a shepherd.

Pastor Larry Richards writes that, "The verb poimaino means "to act as a shepherd," "to feed and care for the flock." In the Judaism of the first century, the occupation of a shepherd was considered demeaning, and shepherds were generally despised. However, the New Testament itself reflects the attitude of the Old Testament, and the metaphor continues to be used to represent God's love for his people.”

Jesus Christ is the ultimate example of a "Good Shepherd" Who leads the sheep and protects the sheep, even to being willing to lay down His life. Jesus' willingness to die for His flock contrasts with hirelings who don't care for the sheep and will depart when the wolves come, leaving the sheep to be ravaged and destroyed.

When we lag behind, He does not scold us. Rather, He gathers us up, encircles us with His strong arm, and carries us next to His heart. (Isaiah 40:11)  The essence, the central core of God's character, lies here: He has the heart of a tender shepherd. His pursuit is not a reward for our goodness but the result of His decision to love. He is driven by love, not by our beauty. He is drawn to us when we have done nothing right and when we have done everything wrong. Jesus said: What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost (Mt 18:12, 13, 14).

Sheep don't have to go looking for their shepherd—it’s the other way around. He's out looking for them. Even if the sheep aren't thinking about the Shepherd, He pursues them to the ends of the earth. Pastor Simon Tugwell wrote, "He follows them into their own long, dark, journey; there, where they thought finally to escape Him, they run straight into His arms."

Pastor John MacArthur writes: A shepherd has his own sheep. He knows his own sheep. He not only has the right to lead and feed his own sheep, but he has the responsibility to lead and feed his own sheep. At night, the sheep would come into the village fold and every shepherd would bring his sheep, and they would all be in the same fold. And then in the morning, the shepherd would come and call out his own sheep and call them by name. He knows his sheep. He calls them by name. The sheep know their master’s voice, and they follow him. The sheep will not follow a stranger. While they’re in the fold at night, thieves and robbers may try to climb over the wall and fleece the sheep or even slaughter the sheep. And so, there has to be a guard set at the door to protect the sheep, because there are always thieves and robbers. The shepherd is committed to protecting them at night in the fold, and then in the morning coming and leading them out and, by name, one by one, to green pastures and still waters. The shepherd is even the door, because they have to pass by him to be identified as his own.

The shepherd calls his sheep by name and leads them out; he goes before them, preparing the way and protecting them from harm. When he speaks to them, they follow him because they know his voice. These verses remind us that because sheep are in such an intimate relationship with the shepherd and spend so much time with him, they can discern the difference between their shepherd’s voice and that of stranger and won’t be deceived. So it is with us. As we commune more with Jesus, our Good Shepherd, and become familiar with his voice, we will not be deceived by the voice of the enemy; we will not be distracted or derailed by the myriad other voices in the world around us. As the song says, we will hear our shepherd more clearly and follow him more nearly, not just in the extraordinary times but day by day.

In the eastern tradition, a shepherd walks at the head of the flock. This is much different from the western tradition of driving the sheep from behind. The shepherd calls the flock out of the pen in the early morning to lead them to pools or wells of water where they can quench their thirst. He then guides them to green pastures, taking them around the rocky places where they might stumble. He assists the tiny and fragile sheep by lifting them with the crook of his staff. He runs his hand over the sheep as they enter the pen, counting them and ensuring that they have returned from the pasture unharmed. Then the shepherd settles in for the night to watch for predators. How awesome that Jesus is our shepherd. He will lead us to living water and guide us along the right path even when the way is rocky. He carries us when we stumble and watches over us during the dark nights of our lives, making us feel secure. All that he asks is that we respond to his voice and follow him. It is comforting to know that I am not alone in the journey called life.

Lord Jesus, I thank you for making me one of your sheep. What a privilege it is to belong to you! Thank you for going ahead of me and preparing the way for me. You call me by name and speak to my heart and lead me. With all the “voices” clamoring in my world, quiet my mind and heart so that I will recognize your voice and follow only you. I thank you that you are ever vigilant, watching over me, meeting with me in the morning, and abiding with me through the night. May I always respond to your voice and stay close to you. I gladly follow you as you call my name! Strengthen and equip me with every good thing so that I can do your will. Prepare me for what you’re preparing for me. And open my heart wider to the working of your Spirit so that my life—inside and outside—will honor you. Produce in me, through the power of Jesus Christ, all that is pleasing to you. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

Look Up—meditate on Isaiah 40:11 … pray to see what it reveals about the character of God.

Look In—as you meditate on Isaiah 40:11  … pray to see how you might apply it to your life. Be propelled to ask galvanizing questions about your discoveries: "Because God is_________, I will_____________."

Look Out—as you meditate on Isaiah 40:11  …pray to see how you might apply it to your relationships with others. Let the nature of God impact on every relationship, for your good, and for His glory.

* If you liked this post, you’ll love this book – Name Above All Names Devotional: Focusing on 26 Alphabetical Names of Christ

Thursday, May 9, 2019

where are you?



My husband, Jack, our daughter, Tracy, and I had just participated in a low-impact family ropes course. It included a series of challenges that we had to solve together as a team. There were several times that I personally didn’t see how we would solve the problem. But we worked together and we tried out different ideas until we completed the task. One of us always had an idea that worked. We learned we could relax and trust that we could figure it out together.


As the challenges came to a close, the facilitator had us gather in a circle, and asked if we wanted the final debriefing questions to be spiritual. We said, “Yes!” and then he asked this question...

On a scale of one to five, with five being as close to God as you could be, where are you?

I don’t remember what anyone else in my family said, but I will never forget what I said, “I’m a one.” It was an epiphany for me, which Webster’s defines as, “a sudden realization, a sudden intuitive leap of understanding, especially through an ordinary but striking occurrence.”

I had accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior as a ten-year old child during a revival. My fingers formed a heart as I sat on the front pew after filling out the decision card. I had been enrolled in our church’s cradle roll nursery at two months of age after my parents adopted me from the Salvation Army hospital in Jacksonville, Florida. I grew in my relationship with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ through Sunday School and missions organizations, memorizing many of His wonderful words of life. And yet, here I was, a busy wife and working mother of two feeling like a “one.” How did I get here? Jesus had not moved, but I felt far away from Him. This feeling was expressed so well in the heart-felt song by Larnelle Harris, “I Miss My Time with You,” as the lyrics say,
I miss My time with you, those moments together, I need to be with you each day and it hurts Me when you say you're too busy 

I knew in my heart that prayer
, time in God’s Word, and worship with my fellow believers were the choices I needed to make to move from a “one” to a “five.” I began to pray this prayer as part of my quiet time each day...
Lord Jesus, give me a heart which yearns for Your Presence, a yearning for You that draws me over and over into Your Presence, a yearning that makes only a few days without time in prayer and Your Word seem like an eternity. Give me a heart which is motivated first and foremost by a desire for You, not for what You can do for me, but a yearning for Your Presence. Give me a heart that wants You more than anything else You could give, to love You and know You more than anything in life. Give me a heart that takes what You have made known to me and makes You re-known to everyone else, a heart that makes Your name and renown the desire of my heart. Give me a heart to feel Your Holy Spirit woo me once again to the place where I meet You. In the simplicity of my prayer time, give me a heart to be suddenly confronted by the majesty of my Redeemer—the One Who is responsible for any good in me. I bow at Your Cross, and I experience anew Your forgiveness, redemption, mercy, and grace, as I sense Your blood dripping over the Crown of Thorns pressed into Your brow, onto my heart, covering my sin, I get up from my knees wearing Your Robe of righteousness as I face the day ahead, welcoming Your fresh mercies which fall like manna from Heaven, and once again move my heart. I surrender all. Morning after morning.  

For it is God who works in you 
to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.—Philippians 2:13


Look Up
—meditate on Philippians 2:13 … pray to see what it reveals about the character of God.


Look In—as you meditate on Philippians 2:13 … pray to see how you might apply it to your life. Be propelled to ask galvanizing questions about your discoveries: "Because God is_________, I will_____________."

Look Out—as you meditate on Philippians 2:13  …pray to see how you might apply it to your relationships with others. Let the nature of God impact on every relationship, for your good, and for His glory.


* If you liked this post, you’ll love this book – Name Above All Names Devotional: Focusing on 26 Alphabetical Names of Christ

Saturday, February 9, 2019

the best is yet to be

artwork by Krista Hamrick


This beautiful artwork by Krista Hamrick inspired me to do a study based on Psalm 90:10:

AMPC: The days of our years are threescore years and ten (seventy years)—or even, if by reason of strength, fourscore years (eighty years); yet is their pride [in additional years] only labor and sorrow, for it is soon gone, and we fly away.

CEB: We live at best to be seventy years old, maybe eighty, if we’re strong. But their duration brings hard work and trouble because they go by so quickly. And then we fly off.

ESV: The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.

EXB: Our lifetime is [L The days of our years are] seventy years or, if we are strong, eighty years. But ·the years are full of [L their pride are] ·hard work [toil] and ·pain [trouble; Eccl. 1:2]. They pass quickly, and then we ·are gone [L fly away].

GW: Each of us lives for 70 years— or even 80 if we are in good health. But the best of them bring trouble and misery. Indeed, they are soon gone, and we fly away.

GNT: Seventy years is all we have— eighty years, if we are strong; yet all they bring us is trouble and sorrow; life is soon over, and we are gone.

TLB: Seventy years are given us! And some may even live to eighty. But even the best of these years are often empty and filled with pain; soon they disappear, and we are gone.

NET: The days of our lives add up to seventy years, or eighty, if one is especially strong. But even one’s best years are marred by trouble and oppression. Yes, they pass quickly and we fly away.

Pastor Warren W. Wiersbe writes: “Life expectancy in the United States is up to 75 years. That's good news; 25 years ago it was only 70 years. Perhaps it will keep going up, but in comparison to eternity, the human life span is short. That's why we read, "The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away" (v. 10). That sounds like a rather doleful statement, but it's true. The setting of Psalm 90 is found in the events recorded in Numbers 14. God had brought the Jews directly to Kadesh-Barnea. He said, "Now go in and possess the land." And they would not do it. They doubted God's promise and questioned His wisdom. They did not believe He would enable them to conquer the land. As a consequence, God said, "All right, everybody 20 years and older is going to die within the next 40 years." And that's what happened--the world's longest funeral march. For the next 40 years the nation wandered in the wilderness, while that older generation died. Then God took the younger generation on a whole new crusade, and they conquered the Promised Land. The older people knew they were going to die before they got to the Promised Land. But Christians today know that when we die we'll go to the place Jesus is preparing for us. It's important to make our lives count while we are on earth. Yes, our lives have their difficulties, and if the Lord doesn't return soon, our lives will end in death. But death will lead to eternity. And we can live a life of the eternal today. The Bible says, "He who does the will of God abides forever" (I John 2:17). Let's touch the eternal today by abiding in the Almighty and doing His will.”

Every year at about this time, I think a little more seriously about a topic that interests everyone, but concerns only those who have reached certain age plateaus. The topic is “getting older.” The reason I think about it at this time of year is that I celebrate another year of life during February. The interesting thing about this aging process is that each of us faces the same inescapable prospect, yet we all handle it differently. It all depends on our perspective. Our lifetime passes quickly, as the writer of Psalm 90 pointed out so bluntly (v.10). Because that is true, we need the kind of attitude poet Robert Browning displayed when he wrote, “Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made.” Life is cumulative, Browning was saying, and each of our days is a foundation for tomorrow. For us to use those days properly, we need to develop a positive outlook on the passage of time. In Psalm 90, we learn that a correct view of life includes a search for wisdom (v.12), a dependence on God’s mercy (v.14), and a request for God’s favor (v.17). As we maintain this perspective, we will enjoy the passage of time.

In the only psalm attributed to Moses, he wrote, “The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away” (90:10). Those aren’t words we want to hear. We want to remain forever young, but Scripture reminds us that the years pass and death will one day arrive. That leaves us to wrestle with two essential questions: Am I ready to “fly away” at life’s end, having trusted Christ as my Savior? And am I using my fleeting days to please the One who loves me eternally?

Scientists predict that the average lifespan
in the United States may reach 100 by the end of the 21st century. They say the genetics that control aging could be altered to extend life beyond the 70 to 80 years referred to in Psalm 90:10. Life’s final chapter, however, will still read, “It is soon cut off, and we fly away.” Moses, who wrote those words, likened our existence to grass that flourishes in the morning and is cut down and withers in the evening (vv.5-6). Although he lived to be 120 (Deuteronomy 34:7), life’s brevity was never far from his mind. That’s why he prayed, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12).

Famous furniture designer, D. J. De Pree, took those words literally. He calculated the number of days from the date of his birth until he would turn 70. At the end of each day he’d reduce his total by one. To see that figure decline reminded him to make each day count for the Lord. He lived to be 99 years old, before his death in 1990. Reflect for a moment what time of day it would be today if Moses' normal life span of "70 years" were squeezed into a single 24-hour day. For example, if you are 59, the time is approximately 8:30pm. The closer we get to 70, it would be near midnight! There is actually a watch called the "Tikker" which not only tells time but calculates your estimated life span, and displays a running countdown of your remaining time! It is advertised as the watch "that counts down your life, just so you can make every second count!" That's not a bad tagline, Biblically speaking!

Pastor Lloyd Stilley writes: “There is a scene in the Civil War motion picture Gods and Generals that is telling. The movie follows the rise and fall of Civil War hero General Thomas Jackson, and does not try to hide his Christianity. Throughout the picture, Jackson's dependence on God is shown, but never more strikingly that in the early morning hours of July 21st, 1861. prior to the First Battle of Bull Run. As the glimmers of dawn break forth, Jackson calls out to God, asking for His will to be done. Almost immediately, things do not go well for the out-numbered Confederates. Union forces quickly overpowered them. The Confederate line broke. All out retreat ensued. Several Confederate brigades ran to the next line of reinforcement, which was held by Jackson's brigade. Morale was all but gone as retreating soldiers swarmed Jackson's position, with the Union army on their heels. But then someone yelled over the din of battle to the men, telling them to look at Jackson. At that moment, General Jackson was sitting erect in his saddle with cannon fire exploding all around him. His left hand was wounded by a musket ball. Nevertheless, he did not flinch. Word spread among the men: "Look at Jackson, standing like a stone wall," they said. Stonewall Jackson, as he would be known from that day, paced his horse back and forth across the hazardous front line, shouting orders to "charge" as the musket balls pierced the air. His stunning bravery stirred the men to valor, and they turned to face advancing Union forces with new resolve. At the end of the day, General Jackson returned to the battlefield to survey the losses: 111 Confederates dead, 373 missing. Weary and sad, Jackson knelt beside a dead soldier. And it was then that one of his captains asked him, "General, how is it you can keep so serene, and stay so utterly insensible, with a storm of shells and bullets about your head?" Jackson replied, "Captain Smith, my religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death. I do not concern myself with that, but to be always ready, whenever it may overtake me. [If this was] the way all men...lived, then all men would be equally brave." Stonewall Jackson was declaring his belief that God ruled over the details of his life, even the flight of bullets and shrapnel. His bravery was based on his belief that, as A.W. Pink wrote, "God is God in fact, as well as in name, that He is on the throne of the universe, directing all things and working all things according to the counsel of His own will (Eph. 1:11)." Basically, what General Jackson told his captain is, "I am invincible until God is through with me."

To say God is sovereign is to say that He is unrivaled in majesty, unlimited in power and knowledge, and unaffected by anything outside Himself. He is outside of time and completely free to do whatever He wills to do anywhere, at any time, in every single detail without interference. He reigns, period. That is what it means to say God is sovereign. And that's what Stonewall Jackson believed when bullets and bombs filled the air. Now run that around the block in your thoughts. When someone we love deeply lies in a hospital bed and we don't know what's going to happen, God is in control. When the economy—national or personal—is on a slide, God is in control. When we're lonely and the phone doesn't ring and we wonder if we're ever going to connect with someone, God is in control. Nothing will enter your life that God does not either decree or permit. And this God, who sustains every atom of this universe, who raises up nations and brings them down, who remains un-thwarted in the accomplishing of all His purposes . . . this King over all loves you! He wants you to seek Him, to rely on Him, to wait for Him, to walk with Him.

Moses, the author of Psalm 90, wasn’t anticipating a refreshing shower when he pulled back his tent flap to face another day in the hot, barren wilderness. His to-do list usually had one thing on it: walk until God says stop. Moses began each day with something many of us are missing: an unwavering assurance of God’s unfailing love. His confidence in God’s love and care was all he needed to face each day in the wilderness. We have the same promise that Moses had. Nothing we do or say will alter the passionate love God pours out on us. In our waking moments, before our minds become cluttered with concerns, before our feet hit the floor, we can pray, “Lord, satisfy me today with your unfailing love.” When God’s love becomes our greatest source of satisfaction, joy will carry us through our daily stresses, and God will put a song in our hearts . . . "to the end of our lives.”

The average life span of a mayfly is a brief twenty-four hours.
A rare number of them reach ancient status, living up to fourteen days, but some live only two hours. This tiny winged insect is born, reaches maturity, mates, and dies in just one of our days! It would seem foolish to us for the mayfly to waste even one moment in light of such a short life span. To an eternal God our life is but a brief flash, yet we often flit along like the mayfly, acting as if we have unlimited days in front of us. Our time on earth is brief, and each moment has potential. It is only when we view time through God’s eyes that we can truly understand how precious a gift is every hour that we exist. Do you make the most of your numbered days, or is time an empty commodity? Ask God today how you can make the most of the time that you have been given. Seize each moment, for life will quickly pass away.

Have you ever been so burdened by stress
that you wished you could just get on a plane and fly away? Most of us at one time or other have had troubles so overwhelming, situations so burdensome and heavy, that we, like the psalmist, have wished we could fly away like a bird and be at rest. We may imagine a getaway to a quiet beach or the mountains, a place free from stress and problems and endless responsibilities. We dream of a turnaround in a pressing situation so that we won’t have that to worry about anymore. But God offers a kind of rest that is different from what our own minds would conceive. God offers us rest in the midst of our distress. It is the only true rest—an inner rest that comes from abandoning ourselves to the Lord and entrusting to him whatever troubles or problems are overwhelming us. Instead of flying away, run straight into the arms of God, and rest in his care and love for you today.

Heavenly Father, help me to see time as a valuable asset that you have entrusted to me. When you gave me life, you intended that I live life abundantly and that I experience joy, fulfillment, and purpose. Help me not to squander time on meaningless endeavors but to understand that my days are numbered and that each one counts. And although an entire lifetime is just a moment to you, let my days be filled to overflowing with the glory of your presence. Thank you for your promise of unfailing love. Impress on my heart a deeper awareness of your love and care for me. Give me eyes to see all the ways you express that to me throughout this day. Forgive me for seeking satisfaction in material possessions, family, friends, and work. I pray that you will become my greatest source of satisfaction and joy. Enable me to find my rest in you, to discover a place of deeper abandonment and security in your everlasting love. You are my only rock. You are my only rest. I praise you for your amazing sovereignty. You wove me together in my mother’s womb, saw me before I was born, and have already recorded every day of my life. You charted the path ahead of me and laid out every moment before a single day had passed. I don’t have to fear because you are with me, before me, behind me, surrounding me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me! In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

Joni Eareckson Tada's prayer - "God, I turn today over in my hands and ask you to help me to pay attention to what you have for me in it, not for the future but for right now."

Missionary C. T. Studd writes:
“Only one life, twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last!”

Look Up—meditate on Psalm 90:10 … pray to see what it reveals about the character of God.

Look In—as you meditate on Psalm 90:10 … pray to see how you might apply it to your life. Be propelled to ask galvanizing questions about your discoveries: "Because God is_________, I will_____________."

Look Out—as you meditate on Psalm 90:10 …pray to see how you might apply it to your relationships with others. Let the nature of God impact on every relationship, for your good, and for His glory.

* If you liked this post, you’ll love this book – Name Above All Names Devotional: Focusing on 26 Alphabetical Names of Christ


Sunday, October 28, 2018

choose life, choose Christ

artwork by Krista Hamrick

This beautiful artwork by Krista Hamrick inspired me to do a study based on Ruth 1:16

NASB: But Ruth said, "Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where * you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.

BBE: But Ruth said, Give up requesting me to go away from you, or to go back without you: for where you go I will go; and where you take your rest I will take my rest; your people will be my people, and your God my God.

GWT: But Ruth answered, "Don't force me to leave you. Don't make me turn back from following you. Wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.

KJV: And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:

NLT: But Ruth replied, "Don't ask me to leave you and turn back. I will go wherever you go and live wherever you live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.

Young's Literal: And Ruth saith, 'Urge me not to leave thee -- to turn back from after thee; for whither thou goest I go, and where thou lodgest I lodge; thy people is my people, and thy God my God.

But Ruth - A dramatic contrast marking a change in direction of her life from godless, hopeless, pagan Gentile to one grafted into Israel and eventually in the lineage of the Messiah. Whenever you observe a "but" (or other words associated with contrast, such as yet, nevertheless, on the other hand, etc.) pause and ask what is the author contrasting? There are over 4000 uses of this little conjunction "but" in the Bible and all of them are important. Howard Hendricks adds that contrasts are always important in Scripture. They indicate a change of direction. What does the word "but" force me to do? To go back to the preceding context. The flip side of comparison is contrast—things that are unlike. We could say that in Bible study, as in love, opposites attract. At least, they attract the eye of the observant reader. There are several ways the biblical writers signify contrast. The word "but" is a clue that a change of direction is coming.

Pastor Vance Havner writes, "A good woman is the best thing on earth. Women were last at the cross and first at the open tomb. The church owes a debt to her faithful women which she can never estimate, to say nothing of the debt we owe in our homes to godly wives and mothers.”

Missionary Jim Elliot said, "He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." A perfect description of Ruth the Moabitess!”

Leave (forsake) ('azab) basically means to depart from something -- to leave, to forsake, to leave, to loose, to depart, to abandon. Things that can left behind or forsaken include persons, people who should left behind; places and objects. The Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures, translates azab in this verse with kataleipo which literally means to leave behind or leave remaining. Kataleipo is often used to indicate abandoning a heritage, giving up riches, and leaving one's native land, exactly what Ruth did!

Turn back (shub/shuv) essentially means to turn, to return, to turn back, to do again, to change, to withdraw, to bring back, to reestablish, to be returned, to bring back, to take, to restore, to recompense, to answer, to hinder. Shub refers to a reversal or change of direction, an “about face.” Shub describes movement back to the point of departure or reversal of direction.

Pastor Warren W. Wiersbe writes: “Naomi was trying to cover up; Orpah had given up, but Ruth was prepared to stand up! She refused to listen to her mother-in-law’s pleas or follow her sister-in-law’s bad example. Why? Because she had come to trust in the God of Israel. She had experienced trials and disappointments, but instead of blaming God, she had trusted Him and was not ashamed to confess her faith. In spite of the bad example of her disobedient in-laws Ruth had come to know the true and living God; and she wanted to be with His people and dwell in His land.”

Pastor Don Fortner writes: “Ruth was converted by God’s grace. We understand that. “Salvation is of the Lord!” It is God’s work alone! Yet, our God condescends to use human instruments to accomplish his work. And the instrument God used to save Ruth was Naomi.”

Pastor Matthew Henry writes: "Thy God shall be my God, and farewell to all the gods of Moab, which are vanity and a lie. I will adore the God of Israel, the only living and true God, trust in him alone, serve him, and in everything be ruled by him;" this is to take the Lord for our God. From this point on Naomi's people would be her people, though Ruth had no certainty that she would find acceptance. Most significant of all, Ruth declared Naomi's God to be her God. Her resolve was total, extending even to death, and confirmed on oath in the name of her new-found Lord.”

Pastor Thomas Constable writes: “Ruth now confessed her commitment to Yahweh, Israel, and Naomi, a commitment based on her faith in Yahweh. These verses are a key to the book because they give the reason God blessed Ruth as He did.”

Pastor Woodrow Kroll writes: “Ruth had to choose to worship the idol Chemosh, which involved the sacrifice of children, or to put her trust in the living God, who gives life instead of taking it. She chose Jehovah. These were important choices, and she made them with a determination that changed her life. Like Ruth, we are all born outside of God's family. But God graciously gives us the opportunity to make choices that can give us eternal life. Instead of continuing in Satan's kingdom of darkness, you can choose to change your allegiance to the kingdom of His beloved Son (Col. 1:13). You can choose to continue in the deeds of darkness or walk in the light (Eph. 5:7-10). You can choose to search for fulfillment in the world or place your trust in Jesus, who has promised to meet your every need (Phil. 4:19). Like Ruth's, these are crucial decisions and, when made with determination, can change your life. What decisions have you made? Choose rightly. Choose life. Choose Jesus Christ as your Savior. This is the most important decision of your life. You always choose best when you choose God.”
Choose rightly. Choose life. Choose Jesus Christ as your Savior. This is the most important decision of your life. You always choose best when you choose God.

Pastor James Smith writes: “Ruth could not bear the thought of returning to the heathen environment in which she had grown up. If she had not fully repudiated the gods of Moab before, Ruth does so at this point. She would hear no more of Naomi's urging to return to Moab. On the contrary, Ruth committed herself for better or worse to Naomi, Naomi's people, and Naomi's God. She did not even desire to return to her native Moab for burial. Nothing but death would separate her from Naomi.”

Pastor Iain M Duguid writes: “Each of these statements ratchets up the level of her commitment a notch higher. Ruth was not merely relocating her home to go somewhere geographically less pleasant, as if someone were willing to move from sunny Southern California to the unbearable heat of Death Valley. That would be noble self-sacrifice; this is far more. She is committing her life to Naomi, body and soul, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health. In so doing, she is also committing her life to Naomi's God, whom she calls as a witness by his personal name, the Lord. She is even willing to die and be buried in Naomi's land—the land of Naomi's God, not the gods of the Moabites. Given the intimate connection between land and deity in the ancient Near East, and the importance of proper burial for a restful afterlife, this was the ultimate commitment in the ancient world. She further binds herself to do this with an oath of self-imprecation. If she reneges on her promise, she invites the Lord—Naomi's God—to stretch out his hand to strike her down. Here is an astonishing act of surrender and self-sacrifice. Ruth was laying down her entire life to serve Naomi. In effect, Ruth was forsaking all that she had ever known to follow the one true God. She was following in the footsteps of Abraham, who had forsaken his family and his homeland in response to God’s command.”

Pastor Charles H. Spurgeon writes: "This was a very brave, outspoken confession of faith. Please to notice that it was made by a woman, a young woman, a poor woman, a widow woman, and a foreigner. Remembering all that, I should think there is no condition of gentleness, or of obscurity, or of poverty, or of sorrow, which should prevent anybody from making an open confession of allegiance to God when faith in the Lord Jesus Christ has been exercised. If that is your experience, then whoever you may be, you will find an opportunity, somewhere or other, of declaring that you are on the Lord’s side."

Heavenly Father, I thank You for the assurance that Your plans never fail. When everything around me seems hopeless, remind me that You have a hope, a plan and a future for me. Help me to see things from Your eternal perspective and to hold on to the reality that in spite of the way things look, You are in control. Indeed, You are still on the throne! Thank you for Your promises of deliverance and protection. Because You’ve said, “I will be with you,” what have I to fear? Help me to trust in You, not only in the small details or battles of life, but also in times of great trouble. You are my Lord, my God, my Savior. Help me to realize that You are everlastingly my Father, intimately acquainted with me and with every moment of my entire lifetime. Help me to rely on You through every season of my life and to rest in the knowledge that even when I am old, You will still be caring for me. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

Look Up—meditate on Ruth 1:16… pray to see what it reveals about the character of God.

Look In—as you meditate on Ruth 1:16… pray to see how you might apply it to your life. Be propelled to ask galvanizing questions about your discoveries: "Because God is_________, I will_____________."

Look Out—as you meditate on Ruth 1:16…pray to see how you might apply it to your relationships with others. Let the nature of God impact on every relationship, for your good, and for His glory.


 * If you liked this post, you’ll love this book – Name Above All Names Devotional: Focusing on 26 Alphabetical Names of Christ


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