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    • By 1Timothy115 in Devotionals
      Psalms 119:1-8                                         Sep. 5 - Oct. 2, 2019
      1 ALEPH. Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD.
      2 Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart.
      3 They also do no iniquity: they walk in his ways.
      4 Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently.
      5 O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes!
      6 Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments.
      7 I will praise thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments.
      8 I will keep thy statutes: O forsake me not utterly.
      The following verse stood out to me...
      5 O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes!
      At first glance it seemed to me this person’s soul is poured out with intense desire to have God’s direction in keeping His Word.
      I made a small wood fire in our backyard for my granddaughter, Julia, since she would be staying overnight with us. My wife and Julia stayed outside at the fire for about half an hour. Then, I found myself alone to watch the fire die out on a particularly lovely evening. So I took my verse from above and began to repeat it for memorization. As I repeated the verse, I tried to contemplate the words and apply them to what I was seeing around me. 
      The moon and stars were out now peering through the scattered clouds above.
      [Genesis 1:16 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. Genesis 1:17 And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, Genesis 1:18 And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.]
      Thought 1         
      The moon has stayed his course since the day God created him, also the stars, obeying the statutes directed by God from the first day they were created. Can you imagine God’s direction to the Moon and stars, “moon you will have a path through the sky above the earth, stars you will occupy the firmament above the moon and be clearly visible in the cloudless night sky.”
      Then, the trees, grass, even the air we breathe obey the statues God gave them from the beginning. None of these creations have souls, none have hearts, none have intelligence, but they all observe God’s statutes, His instructions for their limited time on earth.
      Thought 2
      What if we were like the moon, stars, trees, grass, or the other creations which have no soul? We would be directed to keep God’s statutes without choosing to keep them. This is not the image of God, there would be no dominion over other creatures, or over the earth. We would not be capable of experiencing the joy and peace of learning the love of God
      Genesis 1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
      Philippians 4:7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
      Thought 3 (October 2, 2019)
      Is the psalmist pleading God to force God’s statutes to become the man’s ways? No, he is speaking of his own failure in keeping God’s statutes and his desire to keep them, very much like Paul in Romans 7:14-25.
      God doesn’t work through force to turn men from their ways that they would desire His statutes or desire God Himself. Men must reject (repent) put aside his own ways and voluntarily seek God and His statutes.

Five Things a Crisis Reveals about You

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You’ve heard the statement, “A crisis doesn’t build character; it reveals it.” The statement is largely true, but a crisis reveals so much more than just our character. 

In the midst of a crisis, emotions and opinions abound. But in all that is said and shared and expressed, a picture begins to emerge that reveals aspects of your life perhaps not easily seen at any other time. Here are five:

Your Spiritual Fervor 

In some ways, moments of crisis intensify our spiritual fervor. When the only option is to cry out to God for help, it’s what many Christians—and sometimes even non-Christians—do. 

But seasons of crisis are different. Whereas we might turn to God in a moment of desperation, sometimes a season of unrelenting, low-grade frustration exposes our spiritual complacency and priorities. The good news is that they also give us the opportunity to renew our heart for God. So if you sense some spiritual coldness setting in, turn to God for renewal.

O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is;—Psalm 63:1

When, over time, our building desire is to “get back to normal” rather than to grow in Christlikeness, it exposes a lack of spiritual fervor. After all, peace is not found in the absence of trouble but in the person of Christ. If you find yourself waiting for peace, assuming it will come after the crisis passes, you’re looking for peace in the wrong place.

Your Doctrinal Convictions

Do your functional beliefs line up with your stated doctrinal position?

For the martyr Stephen, the answer was a resounding “yes.” In the face of extreme vitriol, false accusations, and murderous hatred, Stephen held to his convictions about the deity of Christ and Him as the only way of salvation. Furthermore, he clearly articulated these convictions to a raging mob, and he did it with a loving spirit. 

And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.—Acts 7:59–60

Our society is quickly moving in a direction that could put Christians in the position of Stephen. And I’m concerned that fewer Christians will respond like Stephen than those who now believe they would. 

Why? Because even without the pressure of physical stones raised, so many Christians are aligning themselves with current popular movements that abhor and deny biblical doctrines. 

For instance, every Bible-believing Christian is necessarily against racism. Genesis 1:27 tells us that God made every person in His image, and Acts 17:25–26 affirms that we all have equal value in His sight. (I have both written and preached about this in recent months.) While I whole-heartedly support equality and justice (James 2:8–9), I am concerned about organizations professing similar views but with anti-God agendas. (I’ve written previously about the publicly-stated objectives of the Black Lives Matter Network to “disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure,” ”foster a queer‐affirming network,” and “do the work required to dismantle cisgender privilege.”) 

I assume that most Christians who align themselves with these popular movements do so with a heart of compassion for the marginalized or mistreated. And that is commendable and needful. But I have a deep underlying concern that there is either a great lack of discernment or of true doctrinal conviction for Christians to so easily affiliate themselves with some of these specific groups and ideologies. Our doctrine must inform our practice, not the other way around. 

Do you believe that the gospel is the power of God that can save a person from sin (Romans 1:16) and make him a new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17)? Do you believe that such a transformation will eventually impact every aspect of a person’s life? If the answer to these questions is yes, I encourage you to invest great energy and time in sharing the gospel and discipling new Christians. Sometimes those who insist the gospel-centered model of ministry must focus on social justice can do the gospel itself a lack of justice by seemingly suggesting conversion is not the answer. 

Your Heart to Help

Anyone can say they are available to serve and want to help. But few people do it over a sustained period of time.

In today’s culture where virtue signaling has become the norm, it’s all too easy to put out a carefully-crafted post on social media while investing little effort in personally serving others. Doing social good is more than participating in a parade or giving a turkey on Thanksgiving. It is to reach out to the afflicted and need and remain unspotted from the world. 

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.—James 1:27

James 1:27 is an invitation to engage in true gospel-focused ministry to those in your community who are hurting. 

To help others over a sustained period of time, give the gospel. Serve underprivileged children and families through the bus ministry. Bring food to the elderly, widows, and shut-ins. Reach out to the kids in your Sunday school class even when you’re not able to meet. 

Your heart to help is revealed in how you serve people with the love of Christ whether or not anyone else will ever know. 

But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.—Hebrews 13:16

Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.—Titus 2:14

Your Wisdom in the Fray

A soldier in training has luxuries that a soldier in battle does not. In particular, he has the luxury of making wrong decisions. But in the crisis of a real battle, the soldier’s discernment is exposed in a way training scenarios can never do. 

And so it is with Christian soldiers. Times of crisis not only expose to us our need for God’s wisdom, but they also expose to others how diligently we’ve been seeking and applying biblical wisdom. 

Does your life and leadership more resemble the wisdom that is from above or earthly in James 3?

Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.—James 3:13–18

The place where this is so easily exposed is social media. Meaningless and divisive dialog abounds. But no matter how insightful our electronic jabs at others appear, if we cannot control our tongues, we do not have true wisdom. 

If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.—James 1:26

Your One Purpose

What is it that if you can do nothing else before you die, you are determined to accomplish? The answer to this question is revealed in a crisis. 

Ultimately, our answer should be “to glorify God.” 

Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.—1 Corinthians 10:31

Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.—Revelation 5:12

And how can we better do that than by investing our lives in His great commission?

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.—Matthew 28:19–20

Jesus Himself specifically said that we glorify God and demonstrate true discipleship as we bear fruit through abiding in Him. 

Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.—John 15:8

I suppose every Christian generally agrees with these statements. But I’m not so sure that these moments of crisis have revealed evangelism and discipleship as our one purpose that we hold with laser focus and engage in with intensity. 

In time, the coronavirus crisis will pass. In four months, the presidential election will be over and some of the extreme rhetoric will die down. 

But before the dust settles, take a moment to ask the Holy Spirit to examine your heart, especially in these five areas. What have these crises revealed about your 

  • spiritual fervor?
  • doctrinal convictions?
  • heart to help?
  • wisdom in the fray?
  • one purpose?

We all need to make midcourse adjustments from time to time. And the Holy Spirit is always willing and able to lead us in those adjustments.

Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.—Psalm 139:23–24

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