Walk With the Wise

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise,
but the companion of fools will suffer harm.
Proverbs 13:20

Pat Morley, the founder of the highly effective men’s ministry, Man in the Mirror, recounted a conversation about friendship.  

Once I boasted to an acquaintance, quite sincerely, that I had hundreds of friends.  Without pause he said, “No you don’t.  You may have met hundreds of people, but there’s no way you can really know more than a handful of people.  You’d be lucky if you had three real friends.”  

At first I was offended that he thought he knew so much about my situation.  But as I reflected on what he said, I realized that I had a thousand acquaintances but, at that moment in time, less than three genuine friends.  I’ve worked on this area of my life, and today I believe I have five real friends including my wife.  

Morley is right.  Friendship is a rare and precious gift.  Friendship can be hard.  It can be frustrating.  It will cost us time and energy, but friendship can be so good.  It can be a source of incredible pleasure and encouragement and comfort.  Friendship is a priceless gift of God.  

But friendship is much more.  We become, to a large extent, like our friends.  This may not be true of acquaintances, but with our friends, we tend to become like them over the years.  We tend to adopt their values, their attitudes, their convictions, their interests.  For good or ill, we will become like our friends.  

“Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise,   
     but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”  

If friendship is so life-shaping, how vital it is that we choose our friends wisely.  (How vital it is that our kids choose their friends wisely!)  

What do you look for in a friend?  What impresses you?  Is it money?  Charismatic personality?  A great sense of humor?  Unusual giftedness?  These are not bad things, but they are not the traits you look for in a friend.  

Rather, the Bible says:  Look for wise friends.  Look for friends with godly wisdom, friends who understand what really matters in life.  Look for friends who know God and walk with God.  

For God tells you, one day you will become like the friends you choose.

Quick to Hear, Slow to Speak

When words are many, transgression is not lacking,
but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.
Proverbs 10:19

The more we talk, the more we sin.  That ought to sober us and cause us to slow down our talking, but many of us talk on!  

There was a tombstone in an English churchyard.  The faint etching read:  

Beneath this stone, a lump of clay,
Lies Arabella Young,
Who, on the twenty-fourth of May,
Began to hold her tongue.

Far better if we heed Proverbs 10:19 and begin to hold our tongue while we live!  The Bible says: That’s what wise people do.  They are not incessant talkers.  They talk, of course.  But they are quick to hear and slow to speak (James 1:19).  

Why do we talk too much?  Maybe it’s nervousness.  Maybe insecurity.  A big reason for excessive talking is pride.  We are self-preoccupied, self-centered, self-enamored.  Proverbs 18:2 says:  “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.”  

One of my heroes is Theodore Roosevelt.  Roosevelt was a courageous, fearless President with many incredible traits.  But like the rest of us, he was one flawed individual.  Talking too much was one of those flaws.  One biographer, Edmund Morris, comments:  

He delights like a schoolboy in parading his knowledge, and does so loudly, and at such length, that less vigorous talkers lapse into weary silence.  John Hay once calculated that in a two-hour dinner at the White House, Roosevelt’s guests were responsible for only four and a half minutes of conversation; the rest was supplied by the President himself.  

OK, maybe you’re not that bad!  I hope not!  But Theodore Roosevelt is not the standard!  God calls us to be careful, to hold back, to go slow when it comes to talking.  Be slow to speak, quick to listen.  Most of us get that backwards:  We are quick to speak, slow to listen.  

Words are a great resource.  We can do so much good with life-giving words.  But words can be abused.  One way we abuse words is to talk too much and listen too little.  In a day of cell phones, email and Facebook, perhaps the problem of excessive words is worse than ever.  

Wise people hold their tongues.  How are you doing at this rare discipline?

God's Gift of Sex

Let your fountain be blessed,
and rejoice in the wife of your youth.
Proverbs 5:18

Sex is God’s idea.  It is God’s creation.  It is God’s gift.  

The Bible is completely positive about sex in marriage. Consider Proverbs 5:18-19, a passage that is almost embarrassingly candid and expressive:  

Let your fountain be blessed,

   and rejoice in the wife of your youth,

   a lovely deer, a graceful doe.

Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;

   be intoxicated always in her love.  

God is saying to every married couple: Enjoy your sexual relationship!  This is my gift to you!  Have fun!  Husbands, take delight in the playful beauty and gracefulness of your wife’s body!  Be intoxicated, ravished, by her love!  

This may not be the way you thought of God and sex.  But this is the biblical perspective.  Sex is God’s gift.  In itself, sex is completely good.  

Yes, sex can be abused.  It is like fire.  In the fireplace, fire is a good thing, giving warmth and light.  But out of the fireplace, fire can do great damage.  

Sex is that way.  It is completely good in marriage, but outside of marriage, it can do great damage.  Sex needs the context of a loving, committed, trust-filled marriage.  Sex needs this context because it is so powerful.  

For sex is not just the merger of two bodies, but the merger of two hearts, two souls.  Whenever a man and a woman have sex, there is a channel cut between their souls, a channel of emotional intimacy.  A channel of spiritual intimacy.  A channel intended by God to express tender love and deep oneness.  

You cannot do that casually.  You can only do that within the safety and security of lifetime love.  No wonder people get so hurt when they abuse God’s gift of sex!  

Sex is good.  Enjoy it to the hilt in marriage!  But it is for marriage only.  It is simply too powerful for any place other than a committed, loving, secure marriage.

Honor the Lord

Honor the Lord with your wealth
and with the firstfruits of all your produce;
then your barns will be filled with plenty,
and your vats will be bursting with wine.
Proverbs 3:9-10

This classic passage on giving says to “honor the Lord” and not just “give to the Lord.”  Yes, we do give to God, but we do so much more.  We honor him.  We worship him.  We bring a heart of deep-felt gratitude to the God who made us and loves us.  This perspective, to honor God with our giving, is everything.  

Precisely because we are honoring the Lord, and not just giving to him, we bring our firstfruits.  We don’t bring leftovers.  We don’t tip God with a token gift.  We don’t begrudgingly give out of obligation.  No, we honor God with our firstfruits.  We give to God first because he is first in our lives.  We don’t wait until the bills are paid.  No, right off the top, before anything and everything else, we worship God with our giving and thereby declare with our actions that God is first in our lives.  

When we honor God this way, God gives us a promise.  He says to us: I will bless you.  I will take care of you.  I will provide for you.  I will pour out abundant blessing on you.   

This may not happen immediately.  But eventually, ultimately, in some way at some time, God will pour out abundant blessing upon you.  

Down through the years and over the centuries, with all kinds of people in all kinds of situations, God has proven himself faithful.  This is an adventure to experience, an adventure of faith seeing God come through for you.  Don’t live your life and miss out on the great whitewater adventure of faith!  

Honor the Lord.  Don’t merely give to him. Honor him! Honor the Lord and then watch what God does.

Decide to Trust

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Proverbs 3:5-6

If I could only memorize one verse in the Bible, I might well choose this one.  (OK, it’s actually two verses!)  

This is indeed a verse to learn, a verse to love, a verse to live.  It applies to a thousand situations.  It speaks to every problem, every decision, every fear.  It speaks to all of life.  

Trust in the Lord. The Lord God Almighty, the Sovereign Ruler of heaven and earth, the one who made you and loves you.  He can take care of you.  

Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Trust is more of a heart thing than a head thing.  

In all your ways acknowledge him. Exactly what are you acknowledging?  That he is the Lord, the Almighty God, the King.  That he is God and you are not.  That he is worthy of your trust, the Shepherd who cares for you.  You acknowledge all the truths of the Bible about God.  

And he will make straight your paths. Here’s the promise of God:  When we trust him, he will take care of us.  He will bless us and lead us and protect us.  God will see us through.  

So trust him with all your heart.  Trust him when your teenager is wayward.  Trust him when your college student drives back to school at night.  Trust him when the doctor says “cancer.”  Trust him.  

Trust him when you don’t understand why you suffer.  Trust him when you lose your job.  Trust him when your spouse walks out.  Trust him.  

Trust him for your father’s salvation.  Trust him when you cannot get pregnant.  Trust him when you face a major decision at work.  Trust him.  

This is your calling.  This is your mandate.  This is your life.  

In every situation, in every decision, with every problem, you have a choice to make.  Will you or will you not trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding?  Will you acknowledge that God is God and you’re not?  Will you acknowledge that he is in fact the Lord, the Lord God Almighty, and he is still in control of his universe?  

Do it!  Do it today and every day.  Trust in the Lord with all your heart.  Decide to trust in the Lord.

The Fear of the Lord

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Proverbs 1:7

What does it mean to fear the Lord?  Are we afraid of God?  Is this a cringing fear?   

Psalm 33 helps:

Let all the earth fear the Lord;   
let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!   
(vs. 8)   

The Hebrew parallelism makes it clear:  To fear God is to revere God.  The idea is reverence, respect, awe.  This is a reverential fear, not a cringing fear.  This is a healthy and holy fear that obeys God because he is God and he is to be obeyed.  It is our solemn duty and our glad privilege to obey the Lord.     

Abraham obeyed God when God called him to sacrifice his long-awaited son Isaac.  Why did he obey God?  Because he feared the Lord.  If we fear the Lord, then we will obey him.  Genesis 22:12 states that God put a halt to the sacrifice of Isaac:  “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 

If we fear God, we will obey him.  It’s not that we are afraid of God, but that we revere him because he is God.  He is the Almighty, the King, the holy God, and we owe him our allegiance, our reverence, our fidelity.   

Perhaps the idea behind fearing God was captured best in the children’s stories of C.S. Lewis.  Aslan is a golden lion who represents Christ.  When the children enter the fairytale land of Narnia, they learn of Aslan from the beavers.   

“Is he – quite safe?”  Susan said, “I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”  

“That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver, “If there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”  

“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.  

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver.  “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you?  Who said anything about safe?  ’Course he isn’t safe.  But he’s good.  He’s the king, I tell you.”  

That’s why we fear the Lord.  He’s the King and he is not safe.  But he is good.   

All spiritual knowledge, all knowledge of God, begins right here, with the fear of the Lord, the healthy and holy longing to please him and obey him.

Search Me, O God

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!
Psalm 139:23-24

This may not be the safest prayer to pray!  God may make you uncomfortable as he shines a spotlight on the inner recesses of your soul.  

But this is a prayer that we need to pray.  We need God to show us our hidden sins.  We need God to expose our blind spots.  We need God to rescue us from our sinful self-deceptions.  

Confession, honest and humble confession, is powerful.  It is vital to a healthy spiritual life.  When we come to the holy God of the universe with a broken and contrite spirit, God responds.  He draws near.  He hears our prayer.  He goes to work on our soul.  He rescues us and transforms us.  

Never forget:  The holy God of the universe, who wields the razor-sharp scalpel for the soul, is Father.  He’s Papa.  He’s Abba.  And all that he does, he does in love, with a gentle and tender touch.  

We can trust him with our heart.  So pray this prayer.  It is a prayer we need to pray.  We can trust Father on this.  

Search me, O God, and know my heart! 
Try me and know my thoughts! 
And see if there be any grievous way in me, 
and lead me in the way everlasting!

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;

my soul knows it very well.
Psalm 139:14

Have you ever felt like a failure?  

I have.  It doesn’t feel very good.  When I started WoodsEdge Community Church, I had gone through four tough years of ministry.  These were years of struggle, frustration, hard work, personal conflict and more.  I had lost my confidence as a pastor and as a preacher.  I didn’t feel so good about myself.  I felt like a failure.  

Most of us, at one time or another, go through seasons like this, when we feel like a failure, a reject, a nobody.  

At those times, it is vital that we hear God’s voice and not the voice of the enemy.  We must intentionally listen to God’s truths about us, not Satan’s lies about us.  

One of the best places for God’s truths about us is Psalm 139.  There we hear God’s voice to us:  

I know you.  (vs. 1-6)
I am always with you.  (vs. 7-12)
I carefully made you.  (vs. 13-16a)
I have a plan for you.  (vs. 16b-18)  

In other words, you matter to God!  You matter more than you know!  

The centerpiece of the psalm comes in verses 13-14:  

For you formed my inward parts;
   you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
   my soul knows it very well.  

David is filled with awe and wonder and bursts out in praise! Lord, you fashioned me in my mother’s womb.  You intricately, carefully, personally fashioned me.  You made every cell in my body.  I am your handiwork.  Your thumbprint is on me.  Your eye has always been upon me.  Lord, I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Lord, I praise you for the way you tenderly made me.  Indeed, I am special to you.  

If ever you feel like a failure, if ever you experience rejection and disappointment, if ever you feel like a nobody, run to Psalm 139 and hear the voice of God.  You matter to God!  You are incredibly special and precious to the God who made you.

Childlike Trust

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things too great
and too marvelous for me.
Psalm 131:1

David had so much going for him.  He was the King of Israel when Israel was at its zenith.  He was a brilliant general and a courageous warrior.  He was a gifted musician and songwriter.  He was enormously wealthy and powerful.  

And yet David had a profound humility before God.  He had a soul-deep sense of humility and childlike trust before the Lord.  

Part of David’s humility, part of David’s childlike trust, was to admit: Lord, some things are beyond me, above me, too big for me, too hard for me.  Lord, there is so much I do not understand and cannot understand.  Lord, you are so big, so vast, so immense, how could I, a mere mortal, think that I could understand all that you do?  

There is so much that we cannot fully understand about God:  the Trinity, Jesus is fully God and fully man, the sovereignty of God and free will of man, the suffering of children and babies, holy wars in the Old Testament, the reality of hell.  Perhaps even harder to understand is our own pain and suffering in an unfair world.  

It is OK to ask God the hard questions, but we should not assume that we will get answers to all of our questions this side of heaven.  Part of our faith journey is to trust God when we don’t have answers, when we lack understanding.  

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
  and do not lean on your own understanding.  
  (Proverbs 3:5)  

David had enough humility to recognize that God was so vast that he could not possibly understand everything about him.  David had enough humility to admit: God is God and I am not.  David had enough humility to trust God in the face of life’s enigmas and pain.  

What about you?  

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things too great
 and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
(Psalm 131:1-2)

Fire and Music

Great peace have those who love your law;
nothing can make them stumble.
Psalm 119:165

Great peace.  We want that, don’t we?  In the storms and confusions of life, we desperately want God’s peace to flood our soul.  

We also need protection from stumbling.  We don’t want to stumble in marriage, in parenting, in finances, in friendships, in work, in temptations, in anything!  We need God’s hand of protection.  

God grants peace and protection to those who love his Word.  If you love God’s Word, you will treasure it and read it and learn it and live it.  It will be an endless delight to you.  

In my freshman year at Rice University, I had been a Christian for six months.  During the Christmas holidays I attended a conference for college students, sponsored by Campus Crusade for Christ.  

The speaker, Howard Hendricks, challenged us to read the Bible every day.  He exhorted us to make this an unrivaled priority in our lives if we wanted to know God and live for God. 

I decided to accept his challenge.  I thirsted to know God and be all that God wanted me to be.  So in January, 1973, I began to read the Bible every day.  Every morning after breakfast, I would retreat to a lonely place in the basement of my dormitory and I would spend time alone with God, reading the Bible and praying.  

That has been over 45 years ago.  I have continued to meet with God each day, praying and reading his Word.  It has been the privilege of my life.  It has been the foundation of my life.  It has been oxygen to my soul.  It has been a solid rock to stand upon when everything about me crumbled.  It has been light in a dark world, life in a dead world, glory in a dull world.  

I cannot express what the Bible has meant to me.  I cannot imagine it not being in my life.  

It has not been a book of theology to me or a list of religious duties.  It has been the living Word of God.  It has been a draught of living water.  It has been a time for God to meet with me and speak to me and reveal his heart to me.  

In The Sign of Jonas, Thomas Merton once wrote:  “By the reading of Scripture I am so renewed that all nature seems renewed … The whole world is charged with the glory of God and I feel fire and music under my feet.”  That’s it exactly!  Fire and music and the glory of God!  

All through God’s holy Word.

A Lamp and a Light

Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.
Psalm 119:105

We are like pilgrims who find ourselves alone at night in a dense, dark forest.  We are lost and we cannot see the way.  We need a light to guide us, a lamp for our feet and a light for our path.  

The psalmist cries out: Your word, O Lord, is that lamp.  Your word is that light.  

The Bible is a light that shines from heaven and reveals who God is and who I am.  The Bible tells us what life is all about, how to live life well, how to find joy and peace and contentment.  The Bible is a light that shines into the darkness of the world around us and makes sense out of the confusion.  

Robert Coles is a psychiatrist at Harvard and the author of more than 80 books.  He is a Pulitzer Prize winner and TIME once called him the greatest living psychiatrist.  At some point on his pilgrimage, he became a Christ-follower.  In an interview with Philip Yancey, Coles described the Bible as a source of light and wisdom:  

Nothing I have discovered about the makeup of human beings contradicts in any way what I learn from the Hebrew prophets such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Amos, and from the Book of Ecclesiastes, and from Jesus and the lives of those he touched.  Anything I can say as a result of my research into human behavior is a mere footnote to those lives in the Old and New Testament.  

If you want wisdom beyond your own,then get into God’s Word.  

If you want guidance for a thriving marriage,then get into God’s Word.  

If you want practical wisdom for raising kids,then get into God’s Word.  

If you want perspective on the trials and sufferings of life,then get into God’s Word.  

If you want insight on relationships,then get into God’s Word.

If you want understanding about God and his will for your life,then get into God’s Word.

If you want guidance for all areas of life,then get into God’s Word.  

For God’s Word is a lamp for your feet and a light for your path.

Soak in It

Oh how I love your law!
It is my meditation all the day.
Psalm 119:97  

Psalm 119 calls us to mediate on God’s Word.  Don’t merely read the Bible but meditate on it – ponder, reflect, consider, pray through, think over.  Chew on it like your dog chews on a bone!  

Oh how I love your law!
It is my meditation all the day. (vs. 97)  

I will meditate on your precepts
and fix my eyes on your ways. (vs. 15)  

I have more understanding than all my teachers,
for your testimonies are my meditation. (vs. 99)  

My eyes are awake before the watches of the night,
that I may meditate on your promise. (vs. 148)  

George Müller, who led an orphanage in England during the nineteenth century, in which he took care of over 10,000 orphans.  He never asked for money, but relied on prayer alone.  He did not just read God’s Word, he meditated on it.  He described his daily practice.  

The first thing I did … was to begin to meditate on the Word of God; searching … every verse, to get blessing out of it; not for the sake of the public ministry of the Word; not for the sake of preaching on what I had meditated upon; but for the sake of obtaining food for my own soul.  The result I have found to be almost invariably this, that after a very few minutes my soul has been led to confession, or to thanksgiving, or to intercession, or to supplication; so that though I did not … give myself to prayer, but to meditation, yet it turned almost immediately … into prayer.  When I have been for awhile making confession, or intercession, or supplication, or have given thanks, I go on to the next words or verse, turning all, as I go on, into prayer for myself or others.  

When you read God’s Word, be all there.  Soak in it.  Pray through it.  Meditate upon it.  Let it marinate in your heart all the day.

Suffering and the Bible

If your law had not been my delight,
I would have perished in my affliction.
Psalm 119:92

The psalmist says that at times in his life, the trials have been so difficult, the pain so great, that he would not have survived if it had not been for God’s Word.  He says that he would not have made it.  He would have shriveled up and died, spiritually and emotionally and perhaps even physically – if it had not been for the Word of God.  

Let me ask you:  Do you understand what he’s saying?  Have you experienced what the psalmist experienced?  Does this ring true in your life?  

It does for me.  There have been times of my life that were so difficult, so overwhelming, so scary, that I would not have survived if it had not been for God’s Word.  Certainly, this is true for times of deep anguish with a mental disorder, OCD.  But there have been other dark times, health crises for children and grandchildren, challenging seasons of marriage, periods in my ministry when I felt like a failure, times of unrelenting financial pressure.  

In all of these times, the Bible has been a rock in my life.  It has been a foundation to stand upon.  It has been a source of endless comfort and peace and rest.  Where would I be without it?  I don’t know that I would have survived.  

It’s not that there was a simple answer to the problem or a spiritual jolt each day.  Rather, when you meet God in the Scriptures, day in and day out, over a long period of time, something happens inside you.  You feel an increasing connection and closeness to God, a bond that will not break.  You find yourself changing.  There is a strength and peace within you.  You breathe the breath of God.  You have a rock to stand on.  There is a solid foundation for life.  God gives you all of this through his Word.  

Begin today.  Meet God in the pages of Scripture every day.  You need it.

Treasure It

The law of your mouth is better to me
than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
Psalm 119:72

The psalmist delighted in God’s Word.  To delight in God’s Word is to love it, to treasure it, to value it, to regard it as priceless.  

The remarkable thing is that the psalmist’s Bible was Genesis through Deuteronomy.  We’ve got so much more to delight in – Psalms, Isaiah, Proverbs, John, Acts, Romans, Ephesians and more!  

In his extraordinary book,The Heavenly Man,Brother Yun tells this story:  

After his conversion as a young man, he found out about the Bible.  He did not have one.  He did not know anyone who had one.  Bibles were scarce in China in those days.  He was so hungry for the Bible.  His mother had heard of an old man in another village who had been a pastor.  They went to visit him.  The old man told him to pray for a Bible.  So, day after day, he knelt down with one simple prayer, “Lord, please give me a Bible.  Amen.”  

After a month nothing happened, so he went back to the old man’s house and this time the pastor told him he needed to fast and weep for a Bible.  So for the next 100 days, he fasted morning and noon and ate a little bit in the evening, weeping and praying for a Bible.  Still no Bible.  

Then one morning at 4 a.m., he received a vivid vision in which two men give him a Bible.  The vision was so real that he got up in the middle of the night and began looking for a Bible in the house.  Not finding it he began weeping loudly and woke his parents.  His parents rushed in to see what was wrong and they wept with him.  Just at that desperate moment, they hear a faint knock at the door.  He answers it and there are two strangers at the door, the same two men that he had just seen in his vision.  They give him a bag containing a Bible.  

In his own words, he wrote:  “My heart raced as I opened the bag and held in my hands my very own Bible!  The two men quickly departed into the still darkness.  I clutched my new Bible to my heart and fell down on my knees outside the door.  I thanked God again and again!  I promised Jesus that from that moment on I would devour his Word like a hungry child.”  

That’s what it means to treasure God’s Word.

Obey It

Blessed are those whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the Lord!
Psalm 119:1

Psalm 119 is a passionate love song in praise of Scripture.  It is also a work of literary beauty.  The first eight lines all begin with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  The next eight lines begin with the second letter.  And so on throughout the psalm.  The 22 stanzas take us through the entire Hebrew alphabet, eight lines at a time.  Furthermore, Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible.  This is one striking psalm!  

Psalm 119 begins with a call to obey God’s Word.  God will bless us, the Bible says, not if we have God’s Word or if we read God’s Word or if we study God’s Word.  No, God will bless us if we obey God’s Word, if we walk according to God’s Word.    "Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord!"

Obedience is a major theme of Psalm 119. Just a few of the examples:  

You have commanded your precepts
to be kept diligently. (vs. 4)  

Oh that my ways may be steadfast
in keeping your statutes! (vs. 5)  

I will keep your statutes;
do not utterly forsake me! (vs. 8)  

If you want the blessing and favor and protection of God on your life, there’s no other way:   Obey God’s Word.  

Obey Scripture whether you like the command or not.  Obey whether you agree with the command or not.  Obey immediately and completely.  Obey no matter what.  Obey because God is God and you are not.  Understanding can wait, but obedience cannot.  

To read a passage and not obey is to defy God.  This includes commands on lying, gossip, giving, divorce, sexual purity, giving thanks in all circumstances, loving your wife, respecting your husband.  

The writer Flannery O’Connor observed:  “The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.”  

Obey it!  Obey God’s holy Word.  Obey God’s holy Word and God will bless you.

Aim at Heaven

As for man, his days are like grass;
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.
Psalm 103:15-16

Life is brief!  It is oh so brief!  

When we are 20, it seems that we will live forever.  At age 30:  “Well, maybe not quite forever.”  At age 40:  “Whoa!  I’m halfway there!”  At age 50, “Time is racing by!”  And it just speeds up from there.  

Why do we humans, unlike the animals, never quite adjust to the brevity of life?  Because we were made for eternity.  God has put eternity in our hearts “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).  

How should we respond to life’s brevity?  There is only one solution:  Live for eternity.  Accept the biblical truth that this world is not home.  We were made for the next world not this world.  Like Paul, long for the next world.  “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).  

This means we decide that we will not live for things or money or stuff.  We will live for Jesus Christ.  We will surrender our life to him.  We will love people, not things.  We will invest our time and resources in reaching people and loving people.  We will live our life for the next world.  

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote:  “Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in; aim at earth and you will get neither.”


As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
Psalm 103:13

God is Father.  He is the perfect Father.  Loving, kind, wise, gentle, fair, honest, dependable, strong.  He is all that a father should be. Father is the Christian name for God.  

But perhaps your earthly father was not a loving father.  Maybe he was absent or preoccupied or angry or even abusive.  The writer George MacDonald, who was such a big influence on C.S. Lewis, offered wise counsel in his book Unspoken Sermons: 

In my own childhood and boyhood my father was the refuge from all the ills of life, even sharp pain itself.  Therefore I say to son or daughter who has no pleasure in the name Father, “You must interpret the word by all that you have missed in life.  All that human tenderness can give or desire in the nearness and readiness of love, all and infinitely more must be true of the perfect Father – of the maker of fatherhood.”  

To see God as Father means so much.  It means you see God as loving you deeply, tenderly and fiercely, committed to your highest welfare.  

It means you see him as strong and powerful.  He can take care of you, rescue you, protect you, provide for you.  

It means you see him as wise.  He knows what is best for you.  He understands you completely.  There is no wiser parent anywhere.  

It means you are never confused about who you are.  You are a child of Father, a child of Papa.  Much loved.  Joyfully adopted.  Completely accepted.  Delighted in.  

That’s who you are!

Endless Grace

As far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
Psalm 103:12

This is a promise to claim!  

God is saying to you and me: All your sin is gone!  Gone forever!  Gone completely!  Gone never to return!  Gone!

David, who wrote this Psalm, had some big sins.  But he believed that God’s grace was bigger than his sin.  Even if the sin was adultery, God’s grace was bigger.  Even if the sin was murder, God’s grace was bigger.  Even if the sin was rampant pride, God’s grace was bigger.  

David understood grace.  And he lived before the cross, before he could see the full wonder of a Savior dying in our place and paying for all our sin.  

Those of us who live after the cross, surely we too must grasp grace.  

David would have loved John Newton, the former slave ship owner who discovered grace and penned the classic hymn, “Amazing Grace.”  Newton had been responsible for ripping families apart, husbands from wives, parents from children.  He had been responsible for unthinkable brutality on voyages across the Atlantic, when slaves suffered horribly and so many died, thrown overboard into the sea.  Newton’s sin was so big!  But he discovered grace.  Amazing grace.  Grace that’s bigger than all our sin.  Grace that removes our sins as far as the east is from the west. All our sins.  Past, present, future.  Thoughts, words, deeds. All our sins.  

Yes, David would have loved Newton.  

The next time you wrestle with guilt and condemnation, turn to the great promise of grace, Psalm 103:12.  Read it.  Learn it.  Revel in it.  Believe it.  

This is a promise to claim!

God's Great Love

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him.
Psalm 103:11

God is saying to us,  

My love for you is so great!  It is as high as the heavens are above the earth.  It is higher than you could ever imagine.  There is no limit to my love for you.  My love for you is inexhaustible.  I will never stop loving you.  Never.  In fact, I will never love you one bit less than I love you right now, no matter how much you mess up, because my love for you is perfect and unconditional.  This is my love for you: as high as the heavens are above the earth!  

In a movie called The Bear, a young cub loses his mother to hunters.  It has little chance of surviving in the wild.  But an enormous papa bear takes the cub under his care and begins to look after the cub, showing the little bear how to forage for food and survive in the wilderness.  One day, the cub is ready to venture out on his own.  He is off on an adventure!  But a mountain lion spots the cub and begins stalking it.  The mountain lion creeps up and attacks the cub.  The cub escapes but the mountain lion is stronger and faster.  When things look the bleakest, when it looks like the cub is going to be killed, the little cub rears up on its hind legs like he had seen the papa bear do.  

Just at that moment, the mountain lion, inexplicably, backs up and slinks away.  What happened?  A mountain lion is not frightened by a mere bear cub.  The camera lens widens and you see what the cub couldn’t see, the giant papa bear was 20 yards behind the cub, reared up on its hind legs, ready to pulverize that mountain lion.  

You realize that the papa bear had kept his eye on the cub the entire time.  Yes he gave the cub space and freedom to depart, but the papa bear still cared and he kept his eyes upon the cub he loved.  And when the mountain lion attacked, papa bear came running!  

You are that cub.  God is that papa bear.  Yes, God will give you space and freedom to leave him.  But he keeps right on loving you.  And he never takes his eyes off of you.  And when you are desperate, God will rescue you from the prowling lion who seeks to destroy you.  

For your entire life, every single day, God has never, ever taken his eyes off you.  

Time to go home, back to God.

God's Smile

The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
Psalm 103:8

Do you see God this way?  In your heart of hearts, do you see him as merciful, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love?  

So many people see God as stern, harsh, demanding, joyless, hard to please.  A cosmic Scrooge.  But that’s not the God of the Bible!  That’s not the real God, who revealed himself in Jesus Christ!  

The real God is merciful.  He is bursting with tenderness and affection.  He feels for you when you are hurting.  All through the Bible we see God’s tender heart for the widow and the orphan.  In Matthew 9:36, we read of Jesus:  “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”  That’s God!  Full of compassion and mercy!  For you!  

The real God is gracious.  He extends grace to the guilty.  He forgives all our sins.  In fact, two verses later Psalm 103:10 says, “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.”  Four verses later, in verse 12, we read:  “As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”  God is so gracious to us!  

The real God is slow to anger.  Because we can be impatient and quick-tempered, we might feel that God is this way.  But it is not so.  God is so patient, so gentle, so slow to anger.  God never loses his temper.  He is easy to live with.  

The real God is abounding in love.  He is not just a little loving, but he abounds in love.  He overflows with the most relentless love and affection.  He is crazy about you!  His love knows no bounds!  Picture new parents tenderly gazing at their long-awaited baby, eyes brimming with love and compassion.  That’s God gazing at you!  

We have no idea of the tender heart of our God.  

But if we did, would we not love him more?  Would we not trust him more?  Would we not obey him more?  Would we not enjoy him more?  Would we not rest in his love and care?  Would it not transform our whole outlook on life?  

A.W. Tozer once said of God:  “He meant us to see him and live with him and draw our life from his smile.”  Do you draw your life from God’s smile?