Chasten Us, oh Lord

A prayer excerpt, from Charles Spurgeon, that I read this afternoon. His prayers challenge me and help me go deeper in my relationship with Christ. And so I share this with you in hopes that you too will continue to search out your relationship with God in Jesus and go deeper and deeper with him.

Lord, we ask that Thy Word may chasten us whenever we go astray,
may it enlighten us
whenever for a moment
we get into darkness.
May Thy Word be the supreme ruler of our being.
May we give ourselves up to its sacred law
to be obedient to its every hint,
wishing in all things, even in the least things,
to do the will of God from the heart
and having every thought
brought into captivity to the mind of the Spirit of God.

How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. [Psalm 119:9]

The Pastor -|—

Symbol Man

Hebrew - Beth

No worries, I am not following in the footsteps of Prince and becoming symbol man or the blogger formerly known as The Pastor. But if I were to become a symbol man or something of the sort, I like this one. Not just for is aesthetic appeal but for what this symbol refers to. So I am keeping this symbol in front of me.

So why the symbol?

The symbol is called a bet, and it is the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

O.K., that makes sense but that still leaves more questions.

Hold on, there is more.

Psalm 119 is an acrostic poem. It is broken up into 22 sections of 8 verses (one section for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet). Each verse within a particular section begins with that corresponding Hebrew letter. The section titled, bet, (the above symbol) refers to verses 9-16 which reads as follows:

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

These verses caught my attention yesterday as I was preparing devotions for our local radio station; particularly verse 9 about how to keep one’s way pure.

You see, (and you really don’t need me to tell you this), our world is filled with so many distractions. Satan is on the prowl, looking for someone to devour. Just yesterday I read about a pastor who got caught up in prostitution and was arrested. He said he had a moment of “great weakness”. I am not judging him but I can’t help but wonder if that weakness was due to taking his eyes off of God; by not guarding his way according to the Word of God.

I am not suggesting that I am tempted to engage in prostitution (and I am definitely not tempted) but there are other temptations that Satan uses to attempt to draw me away from God. We all face these attacks. Some battles we win and many we lose. And in those defeats I look to another symbol; one that points to God’s incredible love and grace:

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Forgiven, I live to continue to fight the fight of faith.

How?

By guarding it a according to the Word of God; by loving God’s Law; learning it; meditating on it; memorizing it; reading it. And keeping at it, for when you drift away from reading scripture you quickly forget, because we all have very short term memories when it comes to God’s Law and the Gospel.

Guarding one’s way can not be done through clever tricks or strength of mind or simple human will power. Guarding one’s way is only done through the strength of God through the Holy Spirit. The Word of God.

And so I am going to keep this symbol in front of me as a reminder to fight the fight of faith; guarding my way according to God’s Word. And you too, Christian, fight on, going in the strength of God, guarding your way according to His Word and clinging to God’s awesome grace in Jesus Christ.

Holy God, may I always keep Your Word in front of me; that I may not turn away and go astray. But when I do go astray, retrieve me as a shepherd hunting down a lost sheep and restore me to life. It’s in Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor (a.k.a. Symbol man)  -|—

Avoiding the Legos

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Walking in a dark room can be a dangerous undertaking, especially in my home; one filled with toys from a 2 year old and an 8 month old. I have learned the hard lesson to never take for granted safe passage through our dark living room. I either use my smart phone or activate the screen on my Fitbit to cast just enough light to guide my path.

[In case you’re wondering why I don’t turn a lamp on – my little girl’s room is right off the living room with only French doors and a curtain to keep the light out]

And to travel through this dark world without the light of God’s Word is also a dangerous undertaking; but for far worse reasons than simply stubbing your toe or stepping on a Lego. God’s Word lights the path of righteousness that we are to walk .

“You lead me in paths of righteousness for Your name’s sake”
(Psalm 23:3)

For when darkness descends upon us, Satan is going to be quick to be a false guide to lead you away, or worse yet ~ Your adversary, the Devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour(1 Peter 5:8) It’s only the light of God’s Words that is going to reveal Satan’s evil schemes to deceive you (or devour you).

I can think of a few times in my life when darkness descended upon me but the Spirit led me to the light of God’s Word:
~ After our failed adoption I was lead to the Psalms (lament and praise)
~ After the Charleston shooting last week I was lead to 1 Corinthians 15:54-57.
~ After a rough morning with my 2 year old I was lead to Matthew 4.

God’s Word was indeed a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
God’s Word shined a light on the prowling lion waiting to devour me.
God’s Word shined a light to keep me on the right path when the path of bitterness seemed like a good way.
God’s Word shined a light on the righteousness won for me through Jesus.
God’s Word shined brightly in the darkness to cast away my fears.

So never think you know how to navigate dark times. Just because you may have been there before, never take for granted that you know the path. It’s in that complacency that you will step on the proverbial Lego and turn away. Activate the light of God’s Word in your life to avoid stepping on those Legos as you follow the path of righteousness no matter how scary the path may look; trusting God’s Word and not your fears.

Holy God, I am in awe that you would give us Your holy Word. May we use the light of Your Word to guide our way and trust the path that is revealed. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Now what? (Psalm 119:14-16)

In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word. [Psalm 119:14-16]

Last night I made my appeal to God for forgiveness; something we all need to do on a daily basis and then some. I appealed to God’s mercy through faith in Jesus Christ and then threw myself at his feet. And then in the words of Romans 5:10-11 I heard that I am reconciled to God through faith in Jesus.

Praise be to God, but now what?

After we have made our confession; after we have appealed to God’s mercy through faith in Jesus; after we have thrown ourselves at God’s feet, what next? Of course we will hear a word of forgiveness, but after THAT; after the absolution of our sins? We certainly shouldn’t go away unchanged or unfazed. There must be something next.

And there is…

In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.
Take delight in learning God’s ways.
Take delight in knowing what God desires.
Take delight in following God in all things.

Take delight in God’s law, for in God’s law we see a holy wisdom that is far above anything of human understanding. God’s ways and thoughts are indeed above our ways and thoughts, so desire God more than all the riches ever known in the world and will ever be known.

I will meditate on your precepts
Don’t just read and study God’s law, but meditate on them. Think about them. Ponder them. Reflect on them. May they not be a passing thought. May reading God’s law never be cursory. May God’s law sink in and take up residence in your heart.

and fix my eyes on your ways.
And as you are walking with God; as you are meditating on God’s ways; fix your eyes on the object of your desire. When I take my wife out to eat, I am not staring and gawking at other women. That would be rude and unfaithful. My desire is for my wife and so I fix my eyes and attention on her. In the same way and much more, fix your eyes on God and His ways. Don’t be unfaithful.

I will delight in your statutes;
Delighting in God’s statues will only come through diligent study and appreciation of who God is through faith Jesus Christ. If your faith and trust is not in God through Jesus, then you are never going to truly delight in God’s ways. It’s only through understanding what God has done for you that you can appreciate what God is up to and wants for you and desires for you and commands you to do.

I will not forget your word.
Make your meditation of God and His ways a daily habit that you will not forget. Even one day off can cause our simple and weak minds to go astray. You may think you are smart and have a good memory, but when it comes to God we have the attention span of a flea. Mediate often and seek God continually.

But what if I fail?

You will fail.
You will fall short.
You will turn away from God.

Just don’t accept this sin condition of yours but rather keep running to God, for God’s mercy is great. His faithfulness is endless. His love is all encompassing. His grace is amazing.

Keep running to God and appealing to his mercy through faith in Jesus Christ, and start all over again; desiring to truly learn and desire God’s ways more than anything. Don’t take advantage of God’s faithfulness but desire God’s faithfulness with all your heart and being.

May God be praised in your learning and meditation of His holy Law.

The Pastor -|—

Morning devotions ~ Cleaning house

With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! (Psalm 119:10 ESV)

Seeking God requires more space than what we are willing to give. God wants our WHOLE heart and not just part of it. After all, there is so much to God that part just will not do.

For the psalmist here, he knows that clearing away stuff from his heart and seeking God with a clean slate is key to obedience. When we mix God’s commandments with anything else we get impurity and therefore we WILL wander away from God. And we are very good at doing this. We take a commandment of God and twist it to suit our own desires; turning God’s Word into something other than God’s holy Word.

But to clear away the junk in our heart and seek God with our WHOLE heart takes humility and that’s something that goes against the hard wiring of this world. We are sinful and therefore we want what we want and we want it now.

One of the quotes that I have found most helpful when I became a parent 1 1/2 years ago is this:

The best thing a man can do for his wife and children is to love God more than them.

For me this is key when it comes to what the psalmist is saying here. We need to love God above all things and all people…

…even our family.

Notice that I didn’t say we stop loving our family but rather love God more.

Make God THE priority in your life. Let your children see in your life who is King and Lord. Let the world see who rules in your heart. Clean house in your heart that you may completely seek God and not wander away. Clean house in your heart and seek to know God’s commandments better. Clean house in your heart and reserve your WHOLE heart for God’s holy Word.

May GOD be praised always and forever. Amen!

The pastor -|—

Pure and holy ways

Holy God…

You are an awesome, amazing, powerful, compassionate God. You are the King of kings and the Lord of lords. You put all other gods and other ways to shame.

You demand holiness for you are holy.
You demand righteousness for you are righteous.
You demand perfection for you are perfect.

And if that were not enough, the prophet Isaiah says:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV)

Holy God, this is awesome and somewhat scary, and how can I attain to this?
How can I be holy as you are holy since I am so sinful?
How can I keep my way pure since I walk in other ways?
How can I keep my mind and eyes and thoughts on the things that are above since I am so easily distracted by the worries of this world?

By guarding it according to your word. (Psalm 119:9 ESV)

Help me to run to your Word.
Open my heart to hear.
Open my eyes to see.

May I find joy in your Word and may I see your holiness in your Word.
May you guard my ways and protect me from Satan’s power.
May I find joy in your presence.

May I always seek you that I may strive to be holy as you are holy.

Holy God…I thank you and praise your holy name.

Amen!

 

The Pastor -|—

The things of God

The “assigned” Gospel text for Sunday is from Mark 8 where Jesus foretells his death; Peter rebukes Jesus; and then Jesus in turn rebukes Peter: “Get behind me Satan, for you are not setting your mind on the things of God but on the things of man.”

This “things of God” verses the “things of man” has got me thinking this week.

I started the week reflecting on Psalm 119:1-16 where it says:

Blessed are they whose ways are blameless,
who walk according to the law of the Lord.
2 Blessed are they who keep his statutes
and seek him with all their heart.
3 They do nothing wrong;
they walk in his ways.
4 You have laid down precepts
that are to be fully obeyed.
5 Oh, that my ways were steadfast
in obeying your decrees!
6 Then I would not be put to shame
when I consider all your commands.
7 I will praise you with an upright heart
as I learn your righteous laws.
8 I will obey your decrees;
do not utterly forsake me. 

9 How can a young man keep his way pure?
By living according to your word.
10 I seek you with all my heart;
do not let me stray from your commands.
11 I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.
12 Praise be to you, O Lord;
teach me your decrees.
13 With my lips I recount
all the laws that come from your mouth.
14 I rejoice in following your statutes
as one rejoices in great riches.
15 I meditate on your precepts
and consider your ways.
16 I delight in your decrees;
I will not neglect your word.

I have been soaking these verses in every chance I get this week.  When some down time presents itself to me I open my Bible to read and reflect.  I listen and then read again.  I ponder and wonder if I am indeed setting my mind on the “things of God” rather than on the “things of man”.  Do I mediate on God’s precepts? Do I take joy in learning God’s righteousness decrees?

You see ~ The “things of man” doesn’t encourage you to open your Bible during some down time.  The “things of man” doesn’t encourage you to just sit and listen, as a friend of mine so aptly wrote on his blog recently.  The “things of man” doesn’t tell you that God’s way is best.  And so I am encouraged:

I feel good about myself.
I feel justified that I am doing what I should be doing.
I feel like I am on the right path.

But then I also realize that I have my moments (actually…many moments) when I am setting my mind on the “things of man”.  In a lot of ways Peter and I are kindred spirits.

I want what I think is best without consulting God.
I want to find peace and contentment in the things of this world.
I want to rush in with MY agenda.

So then I feel discouraged that maybe I truly don’t have in mind the “things of God” 😦

But then in Romans Paul reminds us that this battle is never ending.  We are always going to be frustrated by the battle between the desire to set our mind on the “things of God” verses the “things of man”.  We are always go to be tempted to take the easy/pleasurable way over the productive/God-honoring way.  The battle is going to rage on and never calm down until that day when Jesus returns to take us home and redeem the pitiful state we find ourselves in.

So in the mean time, take every moment you can to immerse yourself in the Word.  Find quiet moments to listen to God. Remember to shut up and listen once in a while.  And don’t lose hope.  When you falter; when you revert to your “default” setting of the “things of man” remember the Good News ~ forgiveness through faith in Christ ~ and then update your settings to the “things of God”.

Praise be to you, O Lord; 
teach me your decrees. 
13 With my lips I recount 
all the laws that come from your mouth. 
14 I rejoice in following your statutes 
as one rejoices in great riches. 
15 I meditate on your precepts 
and consider your ways. 
16 I delight in your decrees; 
I will not neglect your word.

“Things of God”…CHECK 🙂
[At least for now]

Praise be to you O God!  Even though I falter and take you for granted, you don’t leave me orphaned.  Even though I often revert to the “things on man” you don’t cast me aside to fend for myself.  O God – I want to strive after your righteousness decrees.  Help me to keep my internal settings on the “things of God” that I may grow closer and closer to you.  Through Jesus Christ I pray…Amen.

edh -|—