The Circle Of Love And Hate

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Oh, how I love Your law! … Therefore I hate every wrong path (Psalm 119:97, 104). 

These bookend verses of the section called Mem form the conclusion of a logical argument, and in between are each step of the progression. Notice the word “for” (in vv. 98, 99, 100, and 102) and the words “so that” in v. 101. 

This progression forms a circle from love to hate, and back to love again. Check this out—

I love Your law so I meditate on it all day. 

Meditating on Your law makes me wiser than my enemies and my teachers. 

This wisdom helps me obey Your laws. 

Obedience keeps me on the right path. 

I stay on the right path because You Yourself teach me while I’m on that path. 

Because You are my Teacher, Your laws are sweet to me. 

Because Your laws are sweet, I hate anything contrary to Your laws. 

Hating everything that is not found in Your law helps me love Your law even more. 

[Back to the top] Since I love Your law, I keep on meditating on it all day. 

Far too often I believe Christians are known more for what they’re against than what they’re for. The author of Psalm 119 urges us over and over and over again to not only fall in love with God’s Word but to fall more deeply in love with the God revealed in His Word. When we are brimming full of love for God, we cannot help but show the world what we are for, and that is for everyone to have a personal relationship with this loving God for themselves. 

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Still Being Fashioned

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Psalm 119 is a fascinating chapter of Scripture. Not only is it the longest chapter in the Bible (at 176 verses) but it is divided into twenty-two 8-verse sections, corresponding with the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Each of the verses in the different sections all begin with the same Hebrew letter of that section. 

In the section called yodh, the psalmist wrote, “Your hands formed me and made me; give me understanding to learn Your commands” (v. 73). There is just one Hebrew word for “Your hands” and it also happens to be the name of this section of Psalm 119: Yodh. The psalmist sees God’s hands all over his life, and he welcomes God’s continued involvement in every aspect of his life. 

This yodh section is presented to us in alternating verses: the odd-numbered verses are a declaration, and the even-numbered verses are a corresponding prayer. It looks something like this…

Declaration: You made me

Prayer: May I be a hope-filled testimony to others by my reverence of You

Declaration: You continually discipline and fashion me

Prayer: May I continually find my comfort in Your unfailing love

Declaration: Your compassion is my life and my delight

Prayer: May You deal with those who afflict me while I remain focused on You

Declaration: You bring people into my life on purpose

Prayer: May I be a blameless witness of Your love

In light of this section I declare in prayer: “God, You created me on purpose and for a purpose. What You create, You complete; and what You complete, You complete perfectly. May I remain sensitive to Your Holy Spirit and malleable to Your touch, so that You are glorified through my obedient life.” 

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Ruth + Boaz—The Mother’s Day Version

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple or Spotify.

John Maxwell said, “We overestimate what we can do in a day; we underestimate what we can do in a year.” In the case of parents, I think we do the same thing: we lose sight of the big picture when we get bogged down in the details and the pressures of each day. As a result, many times we are unaware of the long-lasting rewards that come from our daily obedience and God’s eternal faithfulness. This was never more true than in the fantastic love story of Ruth + Boaz. 

Last week we looked at the history of Pentecost and what took place 50 days after the Passover, we saw a picture in the Old Testament that was fulfilled in the New Testament. The Jews saw this too. In the Hagiographa (Holy Writings), they picked one of the books of the Old Testament to read at each of the annual Jewish feasts, and the Book of Ruth was selected for Pentecost. I think this was because Ruth herself is in essence a “harvest” of God’s blessing. She is the firstfruits of the non-Jewish people whom God has engrafted into His holy family. 

The story of Ruth’s coming into God’s family is birthed out of heartache. Elimelech and Naomi live in Bethlehem, which means “house of bread,” but it was a time of famine; Elimelech’s name means “God is King,” but Israel had no king and everyone lived for themselves; Naomi’s name means “pleasant,” but her days were bitter (see Judges 21:25; Ruth 1:1-5). 

After Elimelech and his two sons die, Naomi changes her name to Mara (which means bitterness), and yet she hears “that the LORD had come to the aid of His people by providing food for them” (1:6) and she decides to return to Bethlehem. She counsels her daughters-in-law to remain with their families in Moab, but Ruth decides to cling to Naomi. 

In the face of utter hopelessness, Ruth could have chosen what was familiar—her family, her homeland, her gods—but instead she chose to cling to Jehovah. 

Perhaps when she heard that Jehovah had come to the aid of His people she realized, “I’ve never heard of Chemosh coming to the aid of his people. We sacrifice to him but he doesn’t do anything for us. This Jehovah cares for His people. I will put my faith in Him.” 

Ruth’s first step of obedience triggers a whole series of events, starting with one that the writer of this story introduces by saying, “As it turned out, Ruth found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz.” 

But this is no accident—God oversees and directs all of the details. All of history is His story. God is in charge of the tiniest of details: even down to directing Ruth to the right barley field. Ruth’s trust in Jehovah, her obedience in following Him, set things in motion that God had planned, just as Paul explained in Romans 8:28. 

Moms, at the end of the story of your life, you will look back and see so many as-it-turned-out moments. But that means you are living in an as-it-turned-out moment right now. If you believe God is overseeing the details of your life, then every moment is divinely orchestrated by Jehovah, every moment is strategic, every moment is God-directed. You must remain daily obedient to God. 

Don’t underestimate the legacy of God’s provision that is being established every single day that you remain obedient in following Him. Look at the amazing way God used Ruth and Boaz in the family tree of Jesus Christ (Ruth 4:16-22; Matthew 1:1-6).

Moms, your obedience today is preparing your children—and their future generations—for them to experience God’s provision in a coming famine (see Amos 8:11; Psalm 91).

Of course, Ruth can’t give birth to Obed without there being a father, which is why the story is called Ruth + Boaz. On Father’s Day we’ll look at the integrity of Boaz that made this possible too, so please make plans to join me then.

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Halfway Leaders Become Evil Leaders

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Amaziah did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not wholeheartedly (2 Chronicles 25:2).

Notice the contradictions in Amaziah’s life and leadership: 

obeyed God’s law (v. 4)
🚫disobeyed God’s law (v. 14)

trusted that God would give success to the army of Judah (v. 5)
🚫supplemented his army with mercenaries from Israel (v. 6)

listened to the prophet God sent to him (vv. 7-10)
🚫ignored the prophet God sent to him (vv. 15-16)

trusted God (vv. 9-10)
🚫turned to idols (v. 14)

Sadly, the “not wholeheartedly” leader usually ends up just like other leaders that God calls “evil” (vv. 22-24, 27). 

Bottom line: there is no such thing as a halfway leader in God’s eyes. There is only following God or rebelling against God—all leaders must choose one or the other.

A mark of a godly leader is one who consistently chooses to follow God wholeheartedly.

This is part 55 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

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God Delights In Me

It’s been said that the bookends of success are starting well and finishing well. I believe that! 

David started well when he lifted up a prayer of thankfulness to God when he became king over the united nation of Israel. Prayer at the the beginning puts us on a path toward success. 

Have you ever begun to assemble a child’s toy or a piece of furniture, gotten completely stumped, and only then read the instruction manual? We’ve all been there! There are many things in life that we start on our own and then hit our knees in prayer only after we’ve exhausted all of our human resources. Fortunately, after we pray and God answers, we often end up finishing well with a prayer of praise and thanksgiving. The question is: what do we do when we again get ready to start something else? Do we pause to start well with prayer, or do we dive in on our own again? 

I think one of the biggest reasons we don’t go to prayer quickly is because we feel unworthy to go into the presence of a holy, righteous God. 

One commentator said about Psalm 18 that David probably prayed this “before he committed his terrible sin” with Bathsheba and Uriah. That may be, but with very few minor changes, David prayed this exact same prayer (2 Samuel 22) at the very end of his reign. His reign as king was bookended with the same prayer. 

Between the bookend prayers of Psalm 18 and 2 Samuel 22, David prayed another prayer—this one was after he had sinned against God, Bathsheba, and Uriah. David truly believed that God forgave that sin and wiped the slate clean, so much so that he noted this great blessing on his life: “He brought me out into a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me. 

He rescued me because He delighted in me?! Yes! 

David knew that God had told us that He delights in those who obey Him. The example of God’s delight was seen in Jesus. Because Jesus paid the price for the forgiveness of my sins, I can be completely cleansed. Then Jesus comes in me, and takes me into Him, and takes both of us into the Father. So now when our Heavenly Father looks at a forgiven sinner, He sees only the righteousness of Jesus—something He utterly delights to see! (Check out all of the biblical passages I’m referencing by clicking here.)  

David said his sin had been washed “whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7), So now look at what he could claim—

The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands He has rewarded me. For I have kept the ways of the Lord; I am not guilty of turning from my God. All His laws are before me; I have not turned away from His decrees. I have been blameless before Him and have kept myself from sin. The Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to my cleanness in His sight” (2 Samuel 22:21-25). 

…according to my cleanness in His sight. 

In GOD’S sight! The devil wants to accuse me. He wants my sight to dominate. The devil doesn’t want me to see myself as God sees me. But I declare it out loud: I am clean IN HIS SIGHT! 

This cleanness allows me full, bold, confident access to Almighty God! I can take everything to God in prayer because I am clean in His sight! 

If you would like to read more of the posts in our prayer series called Be A First Responder, please click here. 

Obedience Is Success

David said, “…I had it in my heart to build a house as the place of rest for the ark of the covenant of the Lord. … But God said to me, ‘You are not to build a house for My name…’” (1 Chronicles 28:2-3).

David’s son Solomon would later write about how we make plans in our hearts, but God directs all our steps (Proverbs 16:9, 19:21). 

David not only had the desire to build this temple for God but he said the Holy Spirit gave him the plans (1 Chronicles 28:12, 19). As a result of this, David began amassing resources and organizing personnel. All of this David could then hand over to Solomon, the man who would build the house for the ark of the covenant of the Lord. 

I am sure David felt a twinge of disappointment when God said “no.” Still, David continued to work the plan the Spirit had given him. Who knows how Solomon would have begun his reign as king if David hadn’t done all of this for him. Many of the plans God gives me will not be for me but for the following generations who will benefit from my diligence in those plans.

A mark of a godly leader is one who knows that obedience to God IS success. 

In one of David’s psalms, he prays for success and for his heart’s desire to be fulfilled, but he also acknowledges God’s sovereignty over these things (Psalm 20). May I always keep in mind that obedience IS success. Success isn’t limited only to what I can see and measure during my lifetime.

This is part 53 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

8 Quotes From “Words To Winners Of Souls”

I don’t say this very often, but Words To Winners Of Souls by Horatius Bonar is a must-read for those in pastoral ministry. You can check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“The question, therefore, which each of us has to answer to his own conscience is, ‘Has it been the end of my ministry, has it been the desire of my heart to save the lost and guide the saved? Is this my aim in every sermon I preach, in every visit I pay? Is it under the influence of this feeling that I continually live and walk and speak? Is it for this I pray and toil and fast and weep? Is it for this I spend and am spent, counting it, next to the salvation of my own soul, my chiefest joy to be the instrument of saving others? Is it for this that I exist?’” 

“It is not opinions that man needs: it is truth. It is not theology: it is God. It is not religion: it is Christ. It is not literature and science; but the knowledge of the free love of God in the gift of His only-begotten Son.” 

“Our power in drawing men to Christ springs chiefly from the fullness of our personal joy in Him, and the nearness of our personal communion with Him.” 

“Why so many meetings with our fellow men, yet so few meetings with God?” 

“Our life has not been a lying-in-wait for the voice of God. ‘Speak, Lord; for Thy servant heareth,’ has not been the attitude of our souls, the guiding principle of our lives. Nearness to God, fellowship with God, waiting upon God, resting in God, have been too little the characteristic either of our private or our ministerial walk. Hence our example has been so powerless, our labors so unsuccessful, our sermons so meager, our whole ministry so fruitless and feeble.” 

“It is easier to speak or write about revival than to set about it. There is so much rubbish to be swept out, so many self-raised hindrances to be dealt with, so many old habits to be overcome, so much sloth and easy-mindedness to be contended with, so much of ministerial routine to be broken through, and so much crucifixion, both of self and of the world, to be undergone. As Christ said of the unclean spirit which the disciples could not cast out, so we may say of these: ‘This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.’” 

“These must be days of strenuous, ceaseless, persevering, and, if God bless us, successful toil. We shall labor till we are worn out and laid to rest.” 

“It is unbelief that makes ministers handle eternal realities with such irreverence. It is unbelief that makes them ascend with so light a step ‘that awful place the pulpit,’ to deal with immortal beings about heaven and hell.” 

Why Couldn’t This Be Said Of You?

“Never before had there been a man/woman like ___________, who turned to the Lord with all his/her heart and soul and strength, obeying all the laws of Moses. And there has never been a man/woman like him/her since.” (2 Kings 23:25 NLT) 

What would it take to put your name in the blank? 

God wants you to put your name there, and He will help you if you will ask Him! 

Stand Up For God’s Word

…Josiah read in their hearing all the words of the book of the covenant… (2 Kings 23:2).

The leader must go first.
The leader must go big.
The leader must be visible.
The leader must be consistent.

This is the only way to affect real change.

Josiah did this extremely well. In fact, he did it better than any other king!

Josiah called all the people together and read “in their hearing” God’s word. Then he made it his own and took a public stand to confirm it (v. 3). Josiah went first, and “then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant.” 

The rest of Josiah’s reign is punctuated by telltale phrases like:

  • in accordance with the Word of the Lord
  • as it is written in this book of the covenant
  • fulfilled the requirements of the law

Here’s one of the most amazing things to me: Josiah’s wholehearted obedience to God ends up fulfilling perfectly a 300-year-old prophecy that God gave through a prophet of Judah (v. 16; 1 Kings 13:1-3).

A mark of a godly leader is his public alignment with God’s Word.

When the leader goes public and then wholeheartedly follows through on his commitment to God, others will follow his lead. May all of us be that kind of pacesetting leader. 

This is part 51 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here. 

God Is The Majority

…all of them were leaders of the Israelites (Numbers 13:3). 

Caleb and Joshua were two of the ten leaders who were sent out to explore the land of Canaan in advance of the Israelites’ crossing the Jordan River.

One of their areas of exploration was Hebron, the city where God first promised this land to Abraham and his descendants. It was here that the explorers saw the giants of Anak. Next, they went to the Valley of Eschol and took a sample of the gigantic-sized fruit. The explorers all experienced the same journey, but they did not all come to the same conclusion.

Ten of the explorer said, “The food is gigantic but so are the people. We cannot defeat them!” (13:26-29)

“Then Caleb silenced” those naysayers and said, “We can do it!” And Joshua joined Caleb in declaring, “Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them” (13:30; 14:6-9).

The majority rules, right?

No! God did not send them in as a committee to vote on His plan. God had already said, “Take possession of the land”—that wasn’t up for debate or vote!

The naysayers said, “It looks like a good land, but….” 

Caleb and Joshua said, “They look like giants, but….” 

The majority saw the negatives and made excuses. They saw their situation as bigger than God.

The minority saw God as bigger than the giants. God by Himself is always the Majority. Always. My vote doesn’t change a thing. In fact, I don’t even get a vote! My only decision is whether or not to trust God and obey Him. Obedience—faithful, trusting obedience in God’s word—puts me on God’s side.

A mark of a godly leader is one who makes sure he is always on God’s side. 

This is part 48 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

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