Monday, September 29, 2014

Week Thirty-Eight - Stand

“If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?
 Psalm 130:3
If God called us to account for every infraction, where would any of us be?  Spurgeon says, “This verse shows that the Psalmist was under a sense of sin, and felt it imperative upon him not only to cry as a suppliant but to confess as a sinner.  Here he owns that he cannot stand before the great King in his own righteousness, and he is so struck with a sense of the holiness of God, and the rectitude of the law that he is convinced that no man of mortal race can answer for himself before a Judge so perfect, concerning a law so divine.” 
The definition of stand means to remain or endure.  It has the idea of being wiped away.  We could not remain in the presence of a Holy God because of our sinfulness.  We cannot justify ourselves before God.  We have no ground upon which to stand.  We must be wiped from the scene.
We can rejoice that God does not reward us according to our iniquities, but is a God of mercy.  Exodus 33:21 holds another use of the word, stand.  “And the LORD said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock.”  This usage means to station, but also has the idea of being appointed or deputed.  Praise the Lord! There is a rock upon which we can stand.  That Rock is Christ.  The God of mercy has so ordained that we can stand beside Him clothed in righteousness with our sin covered by the blood of His Son.
Are you standing in that solid position?  Or, are you still standing in your sin ready to be wiped away?

“Seest thou a man diligent in his business? He shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men.”  Proverbs 22:
Charles Stanley wrote a book called, Success, God’s Way.  It is an excellent book, by the way.  He defines success as “the continuing achievement of becoming the person God wants you to be and accomplishing the goals God has helped you set.”  Diligence is one of the qualities necessary to see real success in your life.  Success takes work.  It doesn’t come to those who sit around waiting for something grand to happen.
The proverb teaches that those who learn to exercise diligence in their affairs will be rewarded.  They will be placing or stationing themselves to stand before authorities and dignitaries.  Truly, with diligence comes advancement.  And, as a person grows in business, ministry, or education there comes with it a greater social awareness and expertise.  Further, those who are also successful notice success.  Hard workers respect other hard workers.
The third phrase of the proverbs says that the diligent will not stand before mean men.  It means that they will not be placing themselves before obscure, insignificant or low men.  The diligent person seeks out those who will be a benefit to their goals.  They are “on their way up”.  They are “climbing the ladder.”
Good choices aid in the success of the diligent.  Choices that are made with the future in mind, choices that create more opportunity, these are the choices of the diligent, and thereby place him in the position to move forward – to stand before kings.
What choices are you making?  Will they move you forward?  Will they help you to stand before people with more authority and dignity than yourself?  Or, are you feeding on the bottom of the pool?

“The LORD of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought shall it come to pass: and as I have purposed, so shall it stand.”  Isaiah 14:24
Ezekiel 24:14 and 36:36 records, “I the LORD have spoken it: It shall come to pass, and I will do it.”  Here in Isaiah the Lord is telling us the same thing.  Whatever He has spoken, He will do.  But even further, it will stand.  The definition is to be established, fixed, and fulfilled or to confirm or ratify.  What He has said is firmly fixed.  It will happen.  You can “mark His word.”
In Isaiah the Lord is assuring Israel that He will judge Assyria.  The Israelites will be freed from bondage.  But as you read on down to verse 26 you find, “This is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth: and this is the hand that is stretched out upon all nations.  For the LORD of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? And his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?”
It gives me great comfort to know that God is still in control of the nations.  As I read of the horrors in the Middle East and see the impotency of the Western nations it creates real fear.   But when I come back to the fact that God has a plan.  It is established in the heavens.  It will stand and be completed just as He has purposed.  Then, and only then, can I rest confident that all of the noise of today is but a part of God’s eternal plan of the ages.  Not one thing will go amiss.  Not one thing will be able to disannul or stop the hand of God.
How great is our God – whose Word will stand for eternity!  Do you believe Him? 

“That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”  I Corinthians 2:5
I remember when this verse came alive to me.  I was working so hard to be a “good Christian” and a good servant.  I was putting everything I had into service and ministry.  I was reading books about Christian growth and being faced with challenges.  I didn’t see how I could ever measure up to those Christians who got up at five o’clock to spend an entire hour in prayer, or those who saw ten souls saved every day. As I was tempted to believe that I had to do the same, I became very discouraged.
Then, I heard the voice of my Saviour assure me that I was using the wrong measuring rod.  What He had led others to do was not going to be the same thing He led me to do.  What they had learned and experienced would not be the same things for me to experience and learn.  I needed to put my faith in His power to work in my life instead of looking at others.
To stand, as used in this verse, means to exist, to be based upon or founded in.  I was guilty of basing my faith upon the words and wisdom of men, instead of relying upon the power of God.  Oh, not that I didn’t learn some great stuff, but the wisdom of men can never supersede the actual power of God’s Holy Spirit working in the life of the individual.  It brought me to Colossians 2:3, “In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”  True wisdom is found in Christ, in the fear of the Lord.  That is where I needed to stand.
How about you?  Do you pay too much attention to what men are saying and ignore the counsel of God?  Are you, too, guilty of basing your faith upon a wrong foundation?  Where are you standing?

“…and having done all, to stand.  Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness.”  Ephesians 6:13b & 14
The first use of the word “stand” in this verse means to continue safe and sound, to stand unharmed, ready or prepared.  It is the quality of a steadfast mind, one who does not hesitate or wavier.
The second definition places upon us a requirement.  It means to cause or make to stand, to place or to establish a thing causing it to stand.
It was a great revelation when the Lord showed me that this is what He actually requires of his servants – that they be able to stand.  The battle belongs to the Lord.  He will fight for us.  We are called upon to stand in our place.  To not waiver or hesitate.  To be steadfast.  That is our priority, and we are to be about doing the things that will cause us to stand - things that will establish us and place us in a strong position for His glory.
Then, the Lord goes on to tell us what will be needed in order to stand.  We need truth wrapped around us.  We need a heart of righteousness and feet that enable us to walk with a steady pace.  Feet shod – covered – so as to protect from temptations and persecutions in order that the gospel may go forth.
So, while “to stand” might sound like an inaction, it is most definitely requires action.  We are not to be just standing around wondering what in the world is going on.  We are to be actively holding our place.  We are to be aware of our surroundings and anticipating the enemy’s attack.  Like watchmen on a tower, we are to be vigilant.
So are you?  Are you vigilant?  Or, are you just aimlessly wandering in your Christian life and service?  Do you stand when temptation comes, or do you fall for every trick of the Devil?  Are you in your place on Sunday, or sitting on the couch?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Week Thirty-Seven - Sorrow

 “And among these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest: but the LORD shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind…”  Deuteronomy 28:65
This is a portion of the judgment placed on the children of Israel as they were forewarned that they would be scattered among the nations.  It is a repeat of the same warning from Leviticus 26:16 where the Lord says that this sorrow is a result of their failure to keep his commandments.  The definition means fainting, pining, and languishing. They would find little joy and no real rest and comfort in the nations among whom they came to dwell while they remained outside the command of God. 
As we look not only at the history of Israel as recorded in God’s Word, but also at the recorded history of mankind, we can see this is true.  Most everywhere the Jews have settled has brought them disruption, fear, trembling and actually sorrow of mind because they know that Israel is their home.  They continually live as foreigners, even in nations where they are born.  They pine and languish for their mother country – for Jerusalem and home.
This paints a picture for us New Testament saints as well.  Here we have no country.  Our home is heaven.  We, too, can find ourselves pining and languishing as we wait to cross the river.  Romans 8:23 tells us that we also, “groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.”
Another way to look at this is to remind ourselves that if we are living outside the command of God – living carnally or sinfully, we will find ourselves fainting, pining and languishing.  We will not find the rest and enjoyment we think sin affords.  We will be more like Lot, who vexed his righteous soul by living around and interacting with the wickedness of Sodom.  Sin does not bring comfort.
Is your mind sorrowful?  Do you find yourself pining?  Best be asking, “For what am I pining?”  My heavenly home – or – because of sinful choices?

 “Then should I yet have comfort; yea, I would harden myself in sorrow: let him not spare; for I have not concealed the words of the Holy One.”
Job 6:10 

Poor, old Job.  He is in the midst of a most perplexing and disheartening trial.  One he truly believes is not of his own making.  Of course, he has no idea about the conversation between God and Satan.  As he sits with his less than comforting friends, he tries to figure out just why all this grief has come to his life.  He says, “I would harden myself in sorrow…” 
It gives us the idea of steeling oneself against the hardship.  But, according to Barnes, that is not the true explanation.  Because the word definitions are related to leaping and exulting, it is better understood to mean that Job is ready to exult or rejoice if he were permitted to die. “He would triumph even in the midst of his sorrow, if he might lie down and expire.”  He is well and truly finished. 
We would probably feel the same if we were in his shoes.  But we can praise the Lord that He didn’t give Job his request.  There is a long way to go from chapter six to God’s responses in chapters thirty-eight to forty-one.  We would have been so much the poorer had Job not endured his trial.
I can see two warning that might apply here.  First, steeling ourselves against or in the face of hardship is not what God has in mind for trials.  We are better to cast ourselves upon the Lord and stay supple and willing than to allow hardness or bitterness to overtake us.  And, second, we need to recognize that God has a purpose and plan in every trial.  Even those that we feel might actually overtake cannot - if we stay focused upon Him. 
Later, in Job 13:15, Job comes to a more healthy attitude, one that has personally carried me through many trials, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in Him.”
Are you enduring serious trials?  Stay supple.  Avoid bitterness.  Allow God to have His way and surrender your trial to him.  The whole story isn’t finished yet!

“Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.”  Ecclesiastes 7:3
The definition of sorrow as used here might surprise you.  It would read:  “Anger, vexation, provocation and grief are better than hollow laughter.”  Most of us equate sorrow with grief and loss.  We have experienced death of a loved one and know the depths to which the soul plunges as it works its way through the grieving process.  But to think of sorrow as anger, vexation and provocation takes a bit more.
Is God really saying that anger is better than happiness?  Or that to be vexed and provoked is better than a peaceful and joyous life?  Swindoll says, “…Solomon is not advocating that we trudge through life with tears in our eyes and frowns on our faces.  Rather, he is advising us to soberly reflect on the brevity and destiny of our lives.  This exercise can lead to a lifestyle marked by wisdom and satisfaction.  On the other hand, those who refuse to deal with death, and who live their lives pursuing pleasure, are foolish.” 
God knows that the “easy path” is not the best path.  He knows that if we seek to live frivolous and shallow lives it will not produce the strength of character necessary to equip us to face the harsh realities of life.  Barnes says, “The mind which bears itself equally in human concerns, whether they be pleasant or sorrowful, must always be glad, free, and at peace.”  He also translates the word sorrow to mean seriousness.
So, if we really want a happy, joyous life, we must be willing to equip ourselves with qualities that will create true joy.  Conscientiousness and circumspect living are better choices than frivolous and superficial lifestyles.  Grief and difficulty will not kill us, but equip us to live richer and fuller lives.


“For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.”  II Corinthians 7:10
 Here we have two types of sorrow.  Godly sorrow, which is from above – directed or diffused by God, and worldly sorrow, from below – sorrow as a result of sin or living in a sinful world.  Godly sorrow produces life.  Worldly sorrow produces death.
The main story behind the two books to Corinth is Paul’s instruction on handling sin in the church.  He had written a stern letter and it had achieved its purpose.  The Corinthians had repented.  Theirs was not just a passing regret, but rather a true sorrow for sin.  It was genuine repentence.
The Bible gives us two good illustrations concerning these two types of sorrow.  We can read of the reaction of Judas, who sold our Lord.  His was a worldly sorrow.  This Bible says he “repented himself”.  This means that he was deeply regretful.  He did not repent, but rather, he committed suicide.  Peter, on the other hand, also guilty of denying the Lord, “remembered the word of Jesus…went out and wept bitterly.”  (Matthew 26:75) His was a genuine repentence.  He was restored to ministry and relationship.
To repent means to change one’s mind.  Christians need to repent when they are aware of sin in their lives.  Not in order to be saved again, but in order to restore close fellowship with God.  That is the way of godly sorrow. 
If a Christian practices worldly sorrow, they will find themselves bound by grief and annoyance.  They will experience affliction in their soul.  Rest will not come until they change their minds and turn from the sin that is grieving them.
The way of restoration for us all is repentance.  We must come to agree with God that He is right.  We must allow the Spirit to convict us and bring us back into a right relationship.
Are you wallowing in your own self-pity or sinfulness?  Do you, like Judas, regret your choices, but fall short of repenting and leaving them behind?  Are your choices producing life or death to your soul?


“The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it.” Proverbs 10:22
The definition of sorrow in this verse takes another twist.  It means pain, hurt, toil, or hardship.  This verse brings great joy to my heart.  It tells me that the things God brings to my life, the things he gives me, are for my enrichment.  He does not add pain and hardship.
I have been so blessed throughout my life.  God has brought so very may blessing to me – amazing things I did not deserve – and with each one I knew it was from his hand and for my benefit.  Nearly all of them came without my seeking them.  They were just blessings that fell into my lap and I knew they were from the hand of God.  Sometimes they have been huge monetary blessings – like the time we were informed that $15,000 was in an account in our name.  That really happened!  And some of them were simple – like when God cleared all of my appointments because He knew I needed a day off.  Some were answers to the secret desires of my heart – like the time he sent me to see the Great Wall of China.  And others were confirmations of his love – like when a friend calls or a letter arrives that gives my heart a boost.
The truth is that I do not have to labour to be rich.  I am already rich in Christ.  The depth of the richness in which I have the privilege to dwell cannot be dimmed by the wealth sought by this world.  All of the world’s struggling to climb the ladder or create a fancy lifestyle comes with pain and hardship.  Resting in Christ, allowing him to be my wealth and to provide my needs, affords me a confidence and peacefulness than no amount of cash could purchase.

Are you struggling to gain something?  Does peace elude you?  Are you aware of God’s blessings upon your life?  If not – maybe you need to stop and look for God’s hand.  It is there and it does not come with sorrow.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Week Thirty Six - Satisfied

“A man shall be satisfied with good by the fruit of his mouth: and the recompense of a man’s hands shall be rendered unto him.” 
Proverbs 12:14  
We will be satisfied with good by what we say.  To be satisfied means to have enough.  It denotes happiness, contentedness, and completeness.  According to this proverb it is directly related to our speech. Good words and hard work pay off.  They bring reward and satisfaction.  The man who guards his tongue and uses his words rightly can pillow his head in peace.  He can rest confident that he has sown good things and that reward will come.
There are so many other Bible verses about what comes out of our mouths.  For example:
Matthew 15:11  “Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.”
James 3:10, 11  “Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing.  My brethren, these things ought not so to be.  Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?”
Proverbs 25:11  “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.”
Proverbs 15:2 “The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness.” 
From just these four you see that our speech can be either a curse or a blessing.  Our speech, they say, betrays us.  Our choice of words, intonation, and volume are strong indicators of what is taking place in our hearts.  Remember that verse in Luke 6:45?  “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil:  for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.”
What are your words like?  Full of anger?  Impatience?  Envy?  Remember – if you wind up having to eat your words, be sure they suit your palate.  Are you satisfied with your speech?  Do your words bring good things to your life?

“The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways: and a good man shall be satisfied from himself.”  Proverbs 14:14 
We simply must address the first phrase of this proverb.  The backslider is filled with his own ways.  Those who chose to allow the desires of their own hearts to drive their lives will find themselves filled with more and more desires.  They will never be satisfied.  Why?  Simply because the things this world offers will never truly satisfy. 
The next phrase, then, speaks volumes, “a good man shall be satisfied from himself.”  There is much to be said about a person who is satisfied with his life.  The wonderments, strivings, and discontentedness of the self-driven man have been replaced with resolve and acceptance.  Graciousness and gratitude prevail.  The struggle to collect more stuff or to climb the ladder has been replaced with a calm and settled heart.
The law of sowing and reaping has brought this person good fruit and it is directly proportionate to what he has done in his life.  He has sown peace and he is reaping peace.  He has sown righteousness and he is resting in righteousness.  He has been faithful and God is proving himself faithful.
Surely this would be the desired end of a life well lived for all Christians.  To come to the place in life where we are settled in Christ, secure in His love, and comfortable with whose we are and what He has done with our lives. Satisfied that we have done what God required.  We have run our course, we have kept the faith – we are satisfied.
Well?  Are you?  Or are you still looking for one more thing to make you satisfied?

“He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity.”  Ecclesiastes 5:10
Solomon, the wisest and wealthiest king that ever lived knew that once a man’s heart is set on a thing, be it money, fame, cars, or computer games, he is never satisfied.  The desire for more overtakes all common sense and thwarts any level of contentment.
Walls of DVD’s, video games, technological toys, and even comic books can be the evidence of a life overtaken by desire and greed.  And, lest we think that only men fall into this trap, count the shoes, makeup, trinkets, clothes, and even books that many women hoard and collect.
There are even TV shows now addressing this problem of hoarding and collecting more stuff than a person actually needs.  It is not a problem hidden any more.  Because of the advertising industry we are bombarded with sales pitches and promises of an easy life, or a happier life, or a better life.  All the while we are placing ourselves in more bondage as we convert rooms to store our precious stuff.  We hide our eyes from our credit cards bills and struggle to pay the basic expenses while we are fixated on getting another DVD or another book.
Solomon calls this vanity.  It is empty.  It does not satisfy.  It constantly demands more.  It is never enough.
Wisdom dictates that we honestly look at our “stuff” and discern whether or not we are caught in such a trap.  One way to know is to ask yourself, “When I get low and I need encouragement, what do I do?”  If your answer is buy another video game or go shopping, then you may be on the wrong path – an empty path.  One shopping trip will lead to another.  One video game will lead to another.  It is a downward spiral – one that never will satisfy.
So, when is enough enough?

“The fear of the LORD tendeth to life: and he that hath it shall abide satisfied; he shall not be visited with evil.”  Proverbs 19:23
Serious Christianity – the type that operates in the fear of the Lord – has a direct tendency to life, to all good, to eternal life. (Matthew Henry)  The writer of Proverbs assures us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom.  It prolongs our days.  It gives us strong confidence and is a fountain of life.  With it come riches, honour and life. 
This Proverbs goes on to add two blessed promises to those who live in the fear of the Lord – satisfaction and safety.  To abide satisfied is to be complete and full.  It is to know confidently that your Lord is watching over and caring for your life, and, to have that heart that is not self condemning – confident of your standing in Christ.
To “not be visited with evil” is not the absence of trials or afflictions, but the knowledge that the fear of the Lord keeps sin away from the door.  Evil won’t come knocking at the door because the wise Christian can see it coming.
This tells me that to have a satisfied life is not just settling for what I have, but rather, accepting all God has for my life.  As I live with the fear of the Lord before me I create the conditions for God’s blessing.  I create an atmosphere of thanksgiving and expected blessing.  I know that every good gift that comes my way has come directly from the hand of God.  I also know that every trial has been filtered through His love and is for my benefit and His glory.  Hard times do not remove my satisfaction, they enhance it as I see God at work in my life.
Are you a serious Christian?  Are you living in the fear of the Lord? Is your walk tending to life?  Is it bringing satisfaction and security in Christ?

“As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness:  I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.”  Psalm 17:15
I want to do something totally different here – I am simply going to give you one lengthy quote from Henry Ward Beecher on this verse.
“…Patiently and assiduously did that noble artist (Michelangelo) labour, toiling by day, and almost by night, bringing out his prophets and sibyls and pictures wondrous for their beauty and significance, until the work was done.  The day before it was done, if you had gone into that chapel and looked up, what would you have seen?  Posts, planks, ropes, lime, mortar, slop, dirt.  But when all was finished, the workmen came, and the scaffolding was removed.  And then, although the floor was yet covered with rubbish and litter, when you looked up, it was as if heaven itself had been opened, and you looked into the courts of God and angels.  Now, the scaffolding is kept around men long after the fresco is commenced to be painted; and wondrous disclosure will be made when God shall take down this scaffolding body, and reveal what you have been doing.  By sorrow and by joy; by joys which are but bright colours, and by sorrow which are but shadows of bright colours; by prayer; by the influences of the sanctuary, by your pleasures; by your business; by reverses; by successes and by failures; by what strengthened your confidence, and by what broke it down; by the things that you rejoiced in, and by the things that you mourned over – by all that God is working in you.  And you are to be perfected, not according to the things that you plan, but according to the divine pattern.  Your portrait and mine are being painted, and God by wondrous strokes and influences is working us up to his own ideal.  Over and above what you are doing for yourself, God is working to make you like him.  And the wondrous declaration is, that when you stand before God, and see what has been done for you, you shall be “satisfied.”….And when God’s work is complete, we shall stand before him, and, with the bright ideal and glorified conception of heavenly aspiration upon us, looking up to God, and back on ourselves, we shall say, “I am satisfied” for we shall be like him.  Amen.”