The Lord thinketh upon me – Ps. 40:17

But I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me: thou art my help and my deliverer; make no tarrying, O my God.
Ps. 40:17

Reading this passage this morning, I was struck by the fact that David, the king of Israel, writes here acknowledging his own weakness. We are all weak creatures, poor and needy, dependent upon the Lord for everything, every day.

However, what was really interesting to me, was that David points out that in spite of this fact, that we are so week, and essentially, so nothing, the Lord thinketh upon me. Is that not truly amazing? We are nothing, yet God remembers us. He pays attention to the sparrows, and so no matter how little we are, He never forgets us. No matter how powerless we are, He is still there. In contrast to this, we find in Ps. 138:6, the same Lord knoweth the proud afar off.

When we recognize and admit our own weakness, then the Lord is near, but when we think we are something on our own, He gives us some rope to try it on our own – and we will end up, as the saying goes, hanging ourselves.

According to this passage, God does not forget me, but I am on His mind! How amazing, for as the ruler of all, He has much to think of, yet in all that, He thinks of us. Now there is a question for us. In Ps. 10:4, we find that God is not in all the wicked’s thoughts – for it seems that in his pride, he can think of nothing but himself! The question for us then, is do we think of God always? He thinks of us, let us not forget Him, and let us not think of ourselves more highly than we ought!

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With My Understanding

And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.
– Mark 12:33
What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.
– 1 Corinthians 14:15
Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.
– 1 Corinthians 14:19
For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;
– Colossians 1:9

Consider the above passages. Reading this morning in 1 Cor. 12-14, I’m reminded of the importance of serving God… with our understanding. Though Prov. 3:5-6 warns against us leaning on our own understanding in preference to trusting in God, we are to serve God with understanding. Consider what Jesus told the Samaritan woman at  the well in Jn. 4:

Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.
– John 4:22

The Jews had the scriptures, and so knew who and what they worshiped. The samaritans had a mixed up scripture, and though they thought they new better, they did not have the truth. I’ve been told that Christians walk by faith – and in so saying, they insinuate that faith is blind. Far be it – Faith is my ability to see! The world cannot see and understand the truths of scripture, for faith is the evidence of things not seen – and the substance – or physical matter if you will – of things hoped for.

We are not to wander around blind. Sadly, this is all together too common among Christian circles today. We have the truth – yea, we hold it in our hands, as my pastor preached this past Sunday from Romans 1:18, but we do so in unrighteousness, for we do not study it to obey and follow. Obedience requires understanding of the command. When I was a child, my parents taught is a little saying “I will learn to ask the questions which will help me understand.” That puts the responsibility on us to know what we are to do. So God does in scripture. He gives us the truth, here in this book. When we fail to read and obey it – it is not His fault, but rather ours.

In the context of 1 Cor, Paul was speaking of those who wanted people to think they were something in the church – and so spake with tongues which no one could understand. He pointed out that it is far better to 1. have Charity, and 2. to speak things which are edifying to others through their understanding.

Let us study to show ourselves approved to God, ready to uphold the doctrines of Christ. When singing, we ought to do it with understanding, when listening, we ought to pay attention and discern whether or not the teaching agrees with scripture. God does not call us to a blind faith, but rather, calls us to love and obey Him… with our understanding.

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Pure from blood?

And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I [am] pure from the blood of all [men]. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.
– Act 20:25-27

Today, after trying to witness to a middle-aged Catholic contractor at work, this passage came back to my mind. My pastor referenced it in the sermon Sunday night, speaking of how Paul could say this because he witnessed to pretty much all who were around him. Though this passage states that he is pure, because he showed them all the council of God, it is important to note… he showed them. Often, if not normally, when we go to show others, there will be rejection, but we ought to face this with gladness, thankful that at least in this small measure, we can associate ourselves with Christ’s sufferings on our behalf. It is comforting to me to know that Paul could attest that he was pure from the blood of all men, when he began by persecuting the church. None of us have lived perfectly, for we were sinners, but by God’s grace, we can be, or for those who have already believed, have been made saints. Will you now continue forward, and live to be as Paul, expounding on the council of God to the lost, that you also may be free from the blood of all men? We don’t do the saving work, that is God’s job, but we are to pray, and we are to open our mouths and share the good news!

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Friendship – Prov. 27

Thine own friend, and thy father’s friend, forsake not; neither go into thy brother’s house in the day of thy calamity: for better is a neighbor that is near than a brother far off.
Prov. 27:10

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend
v. 17

As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man.
v. 19

Friendship is often spoken of throughout scripture. We see the friendship that David and Jonathan had, that of Jesus with His disciples, Ruth’s loyalty to her mother-in-law, and in some cases, such as that of Hannah, consolation in God as no friend on earth seemed to have understood her plight.

Reading the above passages this morning, we see in just one chapter of Proverbs [much more should we consider the rest additionally], the importance of friendship. Below are some lessons which I believe can be drawn from these verses:

  • In trouble, local friend is worth more than a far-away brother
  • Often, relationally close friend is better than a distant blood-relative
  • Often, a friend of close belief is more valuable in times of difficulty than a blood-relative who is not
  • In any case, we have no reason to forsake friends, ours or our parents, without good cause [as of making no friendship with an angry man]
  • Friends are an encouragement and change our countenance – outward appearance – sometimes on our faces, and sometimes in our actions
  • Friends ought to sharpen our walk, rather than dull us to be like them
  • Friends often help us to see what is really in our hearts, just as a mirror does our face

In Ecclesiastes 4, we are advised also to have friends and companions. Solomon writes of the danger of walking alone, for in so doing, if we stumble, who is there to pick us up? As noted above, our friends ought to help when we stumble, whether physically, mentally, or spiritually. Should I stumble into wrong doctrine, a good friend will warn and help pull me out, a poor acquaintance would leave me be in the mess, for it is far easier to do so. Additionally, as in verse 12, friends provide strength. It is better to face difficulty with friends than on our own. Thankfully, we have a friend who sticks closer than a brother: our Lord Jesus Christ! God will never leave nor forsake us, and He will always be a friend to us.

The question today is 2 fold. 1., what kind of friend are you? Do you help pick up your friends when they fall down, or abandon them? Do you encourage and brighten their countenances… or wear them down? Both require abrasion, but in different ways. Secondly, what kind of friends do you have? Some people are better left off our friend list, as they will drag us down, rather than build us in the Lord. Though we ought not to forsake true friends, some people ought not to be our friends, as in the scriptural exhortation not to be friends with the chronically angry. The danger here, as noted in the Bible, is that we will take up their bad habits – for we generally take on the habits and mannerisms of our friends.

Finally, as a friend to you, my readers, while reading Paul’s exhortations in 1 Cor 7 this morning, it crossed my mind that the word ‘incontinency’ is not one in regular use in my vocabulary – and so looked it up. It seems that Paul was warning of how our enemy will take any advantage he may get over us – one of which comes from excess. When we indulge in excess, whether as in the context of the passage, or else in food [gluttony], money [greed], or otherwise, excess is generally taking good things out of balance. We ought to take every road we may to escape temptation, for though a way of escape is promised, sometimes it is in avoiding a temptation, and other times it is in overcoming it.

Let us take the Apostle Paul’s friendly warning – and authoritative direction – to not walk in an area of excess whereby we may open ourselves to temptation. Walk in the light, walk in balance, without either excess or lack, and let us live to please our Friend who will never leave nor forsake us for all time, nay all eternity.

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Rejoice!

And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days.
Lev. 24:30

Here, in the first of 193 times that the word “Rejoice” appears in scripture, we find it in a rather normal form for scripture, in reference to this word. It is a command.

In the context of the feast of booths, Israel is commanded… to rejoice! Have you ever had a time where rejoicing is the last thing you want to do? Sometimes, we like to mope about in our self-pity over some problem in our life. But, stop, Who allowed it?  God did. Think about all the blessings which we have in Christ Jesus!

I’ve heard people say they want to be real, and so show all their gloominess to the whole world, but God says differently. We are to rejoice! It is a command.

So then, what about hypocrisy? This is the sin of trying to impress people with our righteousness, religion, or said relationship with God [or others at times?], but not really doing it. I might add, that if we are trying to impress others, it’s probably not the real thing, as the ‘real McCoy’ of seeking to please God doesn’t care for glory from people anyway. This rejoicing however is not hypocrisy. It doesn’t say put on a happy face when your world is falling apart, rather, it says to ‘Rejoice before the Lord your God.’ It isn’t just supposed to be the face, it is supposed to be a time to stop worrying and fussing about our little problems, and ‘turn our eyes upon Jesus.’

Let us look to the Lord, and rejoice in His goodness, along with the Psalmist:

21 For our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name. – Psalm 33:21 KJV

God is faithful to us, through all that we face, He always has, and will always keep His promises. Let us faithfully rejoice in Him! He makes no mistakes – and He is worthy of all praise! We can get excited about our God, He is real, He is true, and He never changes!

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The determination of value

Have you ever considered why a few pieces of paper can purchase a car, lunch, house, or other things? How is it that they hold enough value that someone will give up a thing with tangible use in exchange for paper which is already filled – and that with something we already have a copy of?

The study of value is key to an understanding of economics. Our paper money is simply a placeholder, a common denominator used to facilitate trade. Historically, many items have been used for this purpose, to varying degrees of success. A well known example is that of cigarettes during WWII. Is paper money inherently valuable? Not really. How about gold? It has some use as an electrical conductor, and as jewelry, among other uses, outside its value as a common commodity of trade.

These things are given great value in our world, but lets consider further, what makes a valuable person, or otherwise a ‘commoner’? Recently, I heard a man refer to himself, with a degree of bitterness, as a ‘peon’ of the wealthy. In so saying, he indicated that they had a higher apparent value than himself – mostly in monetary terms. In other words, they were considered valuable, because they had succeeded in accumulating a large stockpile of what other people consider to be valuable. As he has not, he finds himself to be of lesser value, or a less-successful person, by this definition.

Value is closely related to scarcity. The less there is of something, combined with the degree to which people desire it (called supply and demand in economics), establishes its value. To increase fuel prices in the US, OPEC may merely decrease the availability to us, as in the 1970’s. So it is with people – a person who has much information or skills which others desire is considered to have a higher value – more people have use for the skills, and so will pay more to get a piece of his time.

In this way, we find a person’s value, as established by the world, to be the sum total of their ability to produce usefulness for the people around them, or otherwise their stockpile of things considered valuable. If we hold this to be true, President Trump is a very valuable person, while Bo the homeless man likely has none.

However, here, we find our discussion of value to take a different turn. While the world may establish value as shown above, God measures it differently. According to Genesis 1:27, God made man in His image – and so the human race is special to God. This is further shown in Genesis 9:6 where He continues in explaining that the punishment for murder is death – because man is made in God’s image. Humankind is not to be valued after the ways of the world, for God has established their value differently.

Though we are all under the curse of sin due to Adam’s breaking of God’s law (Rom 5:12), we were redeemed – or bought back from our just deserts – by Jesus Christ when He died on the cross (Rev 5:9). Although this redemption is applied to only those who believe, according to John 3:16, it is open to all, for Jesus paid for the sins of the whole world.

The value then which we see God places on mankind is not that of money, or of our skills, but rather it is the value which He places on His only Son, Jesus Christ. He valued us such that He came and died on our cross, so that we could have eternal life.

What then is the value of human life? Inestimable, for there is nothing in all the universe worth more than Jesus Christ’s life – and He valued ours enough to die for. Who now has more value, Bo on the street, or President Trump in the Executive Mansion? They are equal, for it is not money, power, or influence which determine our value,  but rather the price God paid to save us.

So now my believing friend, for as a reader, I hope and trust you are such, what crime is it to not tell others of God’s salvation? What crime is it to show favor to the man in a rich garment, while putting the man valued by the world into the low place? It is a crime of miss-valuing Christ, and thus your own redemption. We typically enjoy being around those like us, but often forget that whatever good we have came from God! We ought then to try to bring others to be like God. Interestingly, in my experience, those valued least by the world, are those with the greatest degree of humility, and thus most easily brought to the foot of Christ. I wonder how many rich and powerful will fail to enter heaven, not because they didn’t know, but rather because they thought themselves too big to stoop under the doorway of the needle gate, or else squeeze through the passageways along the narrow path.

So, my outcast friend, what is your value? Inestimable, for it was for you Christ died. And you, my proud friend, should you be willing to be a friend to one so mean as I, what is your value? It is no greater than that of your poorest counterpart, and should you reject God’s gift, your perceived value of yourself will cost you all eternity.

 

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God’s building

Except the LORD build the house they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city the watchman waketh but in vain
– Psalms 127:1

This morning, I woke up with the above verse in mind. Though applicable in many ways, I’m today thinking especially of our church intention to canvas a new neighborhood this Saturday, tomorrow. Jesus said that if we intend to spoil a strong man’s house  – he must first be bound. We are looking to spoil the enemy’s house on Saturday, and he is a very strong man, much stronger than we, yet Christ has already defeated him. We desire to see the Lord’s house built in doing so, yet to build on our own is futile.

Let us approach all our lives through prayer. We cannot build but hay and stubble should not the Lord do the building, and we cannot succeed against the enemy, should not the Lord first bind him. We must deliver all to the Lord in prayer, asking Him both to bind the strong man – and build His house, His church, and then go in faith trusting for God to work. Romans 14:23 tells us that whatever is not of faith is sin – and this would include good things such as our plans. Let us go in faith, but first bathe the work in prayer. God can bind the strong man, God can build His house, and God can, and desires to, use us in doing so, but we must do God’s work His way should we desire to see eternal fruit.

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Loving God’s Word Ps. 119 Mem

O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day… for they are ever with me… for thy testimonies are my meditation… How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea sweeter than honey to my mouth!
– Ps. 119:97-103 – selections

God’s words ought always to be in our hearts and minds. Cleaning the kitchen this morning, these verses from a favorite section of my favorite chapter in the Bible came to mind.

What value is there in words? We all appreciate words, when someone praises us, telling us what good work we did, or how the appreciate us doing ____ for them, it means something. Depending on what was said, who said it, and the level of perceived truthfulness (how genuine), we may place more or less value on those words.

I’ve heard it said that one of the surest ways to change the actions of another are to praise them when the do what you like. I’ve not forgotten a friend who about 10 years ago was constantly praising his dishpit (commercial size dish cleaning) team, and seemed to always be enthusiastically speaking good and kind things of his family. Words have tremendous power to either build up, or else tear down.

Though words of people mean much to us, how much more ought God’s words to mean? His words are the words of life, they tell us how we can know our Creator, how we can have a relationship with Him, how we can be forgiven of our sins.

The psalmist here writes of what God’s words mean to him. They are so sweet to his taste, that he thinks on them all the day. When he wakes up… he is meditating, when he works, eats lunch, speaks with others, and goes to bed… God’s word is always on his mind and tongue. So ought we to be. Throughout the rest of this chapter, the longest in scripture, a great many wonderful reasons are given as to why we ought to love God’s word, why it ought to always be on our hearts and minds.

How can we get it to be this way? We must love the Author of the book enough that we delight in His words, that we read them anytime we are able, and then they will sink into our minds and hearts. When God’s ways are our delight, then we will rejoice in His word, it will always be on our hearts, and through faith, we will be able to live lives well pleasing to our gracious Lord and King!

How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweater than honey to my mouth!
Ps. 119:103

Edit: I just noticed it is also Valentines day – A day when people often send notes with… words… to people they care about. God already gave us His word… Have you opened it yet today, or do you prefer words from friends and family here on earth?

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Jonah’s God

Today I had opportunity to listen to a message titled “The God of Jonah”. Mark Rogers brings out some interesting points in this message, which I’ve never considered despite having studied this book in some depth a few months ago. I’ll continue below with interesting points, many of which are from his message.

One of the key points we see throughout the book of Jonah is God’s mercy. Assyria had a cruelly bloody history by the time Jonah came around, and news of their impending judgment was music to the prophet’s ears. I find this sadly like some believers who rejoice to think of the judgment the wicked will soon face, yet, as we know our God, one who reaps where He didn’t sow, so we ought to look out on the harvest fields, white and ready, and weep, not rejoice. There is no cause for us to rejoice in seeing the wicked on the brink of destruction – Christ died for them also!

We ought to weep, but we ought to go. God commanded us to go, to tell all people what great things He has done for us – which as we’ve been attempting to touch on over the last few articles, is far beyond anything we can ever account for. Before Christ, I was poor beyond measure, spiritually speaking, yet today, ano domini, I am rich beyond measure, for God gave me His riches – at Christ’s expense!

God commanded Jonah, His prophet, to go and warn the Ninevites, yet he did not go, because he wanted to see them destroyed. In the end, through God’s miraculous – note, outside the natural, and therefore unexplainable by science – intervention,  God brought Jonah to Nineveh, where he did preach and warn the people. When they repented, Jonah mourned.

It was here, that God allowed the hot sun to bother Jonah, as he watched and waited for the pending destruction, raised up a vine for shade for Jonah, and then had it destroyed the following day. Jonah mourned over the vine, but God had done this for a picture – Jonah had mercy on a vine, how about this people? On this question, the book ends.

How about you? God died for all this people on earth. Will you warn them, or do you rejoice to see them pour over the brink into destruction? Perhaps you are just unfeeling, having little care for them, yet how about your Lord? He cared so much He sent His Son to die, Christ cared enough to die for you. What about them? Will you warn them? God desires to show mercy, are you willing to be used in that?

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The Effect of Fearing God

Favor is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.
Prov. 31:30-31

Thinking during lunch today, this verse came to mind. Though once again, time to write is short, there are a few key points that stand out to me.

First of all, the context of this passage is Solomon’s mother, teaching him what kind of woman he ought to marry. Though I’m going to apply this passage to all of us, per II Tim 3:16, keep in mind the original context as well.

The key point I wont to look at is in the second verse quoted above. When a person fears the Lord, their actions will be different, and although others may not believe in the Lord, the selflessness of their actions will generally be commended nonetheless. Even the most wicked person has some appreciation for the person who has Godly charity, stemming from fear of the Lord, though it may be merely due to how they are able to take advantage of them. Throughout this chapter, we see this commendable woman giving, giving, and giving. Her hands and mind seem to stay busy in service for her family and others, but in the end, we find the root of it all. She does what she does, not for the praise it will garner, nor for the pleasure it brings her – for it consists of much labor, but rather she does it because God is watching, and He is who she cares most about.

The secondary point to make today, is a warning, both to men and women. As a man, I’ll start with the warning to men. The world, and over my few years, my ears as well, have been filled with stories of men who chose their wives and friends based solely on appearances. In the Bible, we see David’s fall with Bathsheba, based on what he saw, rather than what he thought, Samson and his wife, and later Delilah, his downfall, and a great many other examples of those who made poor decisions based on what they saw, rather than the actuality of substance. In the end, what matters most is not what kind of body a person lives in, though they would do well to take care of it, remembering it to be God’s temple, but rather who lives within. This woman is commended throughout the chapter, not for her appearance, but rather for her character. All or most of the stories I’ve known of people choosing based on appearance have had sad endings.

Next, the warning to women. I’ll not claim to understand all parts of this, but sadly, a great many women spend far more time and effort on appearance than the inside. Scripture does not say to forget appearances, for in fact, in several places, most notably Solomon’s song, we see some (there, us as the Church for the Lord Jesus), adorning themselves. As such, it seems to me there is little room either for Christians to focus overly much on appearances – or to excuse sloppy carelessness! However, as we are currently looking at this passage, and also as our American culture has much more difficulty with this extreme than the other, let us look at the passage clearly stated here, “beauty is vain.” It comes, and it goes. Interesting to me, many of those who have worked hardest to attract attention in their youth, have the most to overcome as time passes. That which matters most is the inside. As vain means hollow, so beauty is a shell, if there is nothing inside, it is vanity, if filled with the Spirit of God, it is a truly beautiful thing.

So for all of us today, what is it when people see us? Are we hollow, empty, vain people, or are we living for the Lord, caring but little what people think, but rather pressing forwards for the eternal crown which does not fade with time? For those who are doughnut lovers, how about a cream or jelly filled doughnut… with no filling? It would be a disappointing and empty pastry. So are we, when not filled with the Lord. Let’s live lives looking to God for commendation, and letting the rest be what it may. God’s praise lasts, the world’s passes away – and that right quickly!

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