Monthly Archives: January 2018

Psalm 119:65-80 Finding purpose in affliction

little-girl-1611352_960_720(65) You have dealt with me – I take it as a statement of gratitude. Some days, it’s a wonder God chooses to deal with us at all.  (66) Teach me good judgment – who or what have I misjudged lately?

(67) Before I was afflicted I went astray  – “Often trials act as a thorn hedge to keep us in good pasture; but our prosperity is a gap [in the hedge] through which we go astray.” (Charles Spurgeon).

(68) Teach me – how willing are we to learn from God?  Their heart is as fat as grease – we know a fatty heart is a recipe for a medical disaster.  What about our spiritual heart (pride)?  (71) It is good that I was afflicted – in this case affliction led to restoration, looking back the psalmist deemed that good.

(73) Your hands made me – God knows everything about us.  (75) I know your judgments are right – how much do we trust God’s judgment? (76) Comfort – God is able to help me in times of my affliction. (80) Which is more important, to be held in high esteem by man or God?

Matt Chandler’s video series on this portion of Psalm 119 highlights when we are afflicted, God is not an ambulance driver wringing his hands or trying to figure out what he is going to do.  Instead he is more like a surgeon.  Spiritual Surgery during affliction is God’s tool for cutting away things that may harm us in the long run.  For the Christian there is a redemption (purpose) to be found in suffering.

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“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”  Romans 8:28 NLT

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Psalm 119:49-64 The Lord is my Portion

god-2012104_960_720Two themes rise to the surface in verses 49-56 of Psalm 119.  The first theme dwells on remembrance.  The psalmist is not asking for God for some new promise.  He is standing on an existing one.   He is not saying, “remember all I have done for you, God,” rather he is asking God to remember his promise.  As Christians we need to remind ourselves of the promise of the empty grave that once held our Savior!  Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection we can experience the forgiveness of sins  and have the promise of eternal life.

The second theme that emerges in this section is one of comfort.  Comfort comes from knowing who or what you believe in.

A worldly person clutches his wallet and proclaims, “this is my comfort.” A drunkard lifts his glass and sings, “this is my comfort.” A man of God grounded in the Word of God testifies, “this is my comfort,” for he personally knows who it is he believes in. (Charles Spurgeon)

sunrise-1756274_960_720The next section of the Psalm (57-64) opens with, “the Lord is my Portion.”  As Matt Chandler puts it, “God is enough, he is BIG enough!”  We don’t serve an ancient, obsolete God.  He is actively at work in the world he created.  Chandler provides four points that highlight why God is big enough, even in times of suffering.

  • God is gracious and kind
  • The testimonies of God are faithful
  • God is always available
  • God has given us people of God as companions

(56) Remember God – how often do your thoughts dwell on God? Weekly? Daily? Hourly?  He is a God who comforts.

(57) Remind yourself at least a dozen times today, “the Lord is my portion.”  (God is enough, he is BIG enough!”

 

Brody Toady

IMG_0986Well, our little English Creme hot dog turns out to be quite a shredder.  It doesn’t matter whether its a credit card receipt, an empty toilet paper roll, a newspaper, a computer power cord or my slippers.  If he can get his teeth on it he will chew or shred it.

This fall, when Jake, Brody and I were able to take walks, I talked to them as we walked.  Jake(r) was the baker and Brody was a toady.  I guess you could say I liked to make rhymes while we ambled along.

Brody was a toad because he hopped along yanking the leash.  He couldn’t stay on the sidewalk or walk in a straight line, hence the nickname.  This spring he’ll need a new nickname once he becomes a good walker.

Psalm 119:33-48 Cause Me

(33) “Follow it to the end” – this section of the 119th Psalm speaks about finishing well.  God’s help is needed for us to stay the course and finish well.  (37) “Turn my eyes” – our eyes have an appetite, we need to guard what they are focusing on.  (41) “Thy salvation” –  deliverance from the evil that is revealed to us in God’s word.  (48) “I will lift up my hands” – how many of us can say that we reach out  for God’s word like a child reaches for a gift (Spurgeon).

Matt Chandler in his video series on Psalm 119 titles this section, “Cause Me.”  Our prayers should reflect two ideas: (1) to love what is good (give me an appetite for God’s Word) and (2) to hate what is evil (my selfishness can be a source of evil).  Studying God’s word positions us to do both.

My prayer: Cause me to be certain of my faith, cause me to be thirsty for Your word and cause me to finish well.-Let anyone who is thirsty (2)

Making a New’s Year Resolution

new year'sresolution2016Let me begin by wishing everyone a Happy New Year! This is my final installment of the series entitled, “table scraps” (words likely to be used at family gatherings over the holidays). As you might expect, I chose a word closely associated with this time of year: “resolution.”

In 2013, Dan Diamond, a blogger and contributor to //onforb.es (www.Forbes.com), states that 40% of Americans are likely to make New Year’s resolutions but only 8% of them will achieve their goal. According to Diamond, “More often than not, people who fail to keep their resolutions blame their own lack of willpower.” He cites a desire for self-improvement as the leading factor in making resolutions.

My reasons for making a resolution would include, a desire to act on something that’s been bothering me, whether it is guilt from neglecting something or someone, or inaction (not doing something I feel I should be doing). Like many other people, I would include health related reasons; two of my favorites are losing some weight and exercising more.

Our culture has adopted the practice of making our resolutions at the start of a New Year. I guess the new calendar symbolizes a fresh start and makes the starting date easier to recall. Add to that the social buzz created by a host of others also making resolutions and you have a strength in numbers kind of thing going on. For people of faith, having just celebrated the birth of Christ on Christmas, a new calendar year offers a convenient starting point to resolutely draw closer to God.

This year, before you jump on the bandwagon and vow to make a resolution, you may want to give more thought to the word’s meaning. Google defines “resolution” as “a firm decision to do or not do something.” Synonyms include: intention, decision, commitment, pledge, and promise. Words closely related to resolution are: “resolute,” (purposeful, determined, and unwavering) and “resolve” (defined as a “firm determination to do something”).  Making a resolution, then, can be likened to drawing a line in the sand, and vowing not to cross it.

Returning to Dan Diamond’s piece for a moment, he gives the following advice for making a resolution: (1) keep it simple (small, obtainable), (2) make it tangible (eliminate vagueness), (3) make it obvious (have visual reminders), and (4) keep believing you can do it (have willpower).

If you are a Christian you can add a fifth point: involve God in your resolution making decision and seek out His help in seeing it through. He is very much interested in the little details in our lives. Take Romans 8:28 for example, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

A quick peek at my Bible concordance (TNIV translation) yielded two scripture passages using the word “resolved,” Daniel 1:8 and 1 Corinthians 2:2. Since the book of Daniel is one of my favorite books, I decided to check that verse out.

“But Daniel resolved to not defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself in this way.” (TNIV translation)

Here Daniel resolved not to do something – not to eat of the king’s delicacies. He was a prisoner of war taken to a foreign land, to be assimilated into a pagan Babylonian culture. To resist assimilation meant facing the possibility of being killed. Many scholars feel he was a young teen when he was taken to Babylon and made this resolution.

As a true believer in God, Daniel believed there was no separation between his religious beliefs new year's resolution 2016and the world he functioned in. (Many of us need reminding of this fact on a regular basis.) The former (his faith) governed the latter (his work). His resolve to resist defiling himself came from within; he purposed not to do this in his heart. His decision was an act of worship, not one of self-affirmation or self-improvement.

On the surface the resolution seems trivial until you look at its broader implications. Daniel was being asked to abandon his devout faith in God and adopt a pagan way of life. He made the resolution out of a need to preserve his relationship with God.   God honored Daniel by working on his behalf and making it possible for Daniel to eat the food and water of his choosing. By keeping the resolution he made, Daniel’s life became a conduit for the miraculous workings of God.

What, if any, resolution will you make this year? Will you be including God in your plans?