We recently launched into a study of the book of Acts on Sunday mornings. At the men’s dinner one Tuesday evening, one of the guys asked me why I picked the book of Acts. I told him that it was where I sensed the Lord wanted us to go next. For me, the decision of which book to preach through is an important matter of prayer and that is the main reason we are heading that way on Sunday mornings.
What do I expect? Why do I think the Lord wants us to go through Acts? There are several reasons.
Our study of Ephesians was highly doctrinal. Acts is action-packed with the adventures of God’s people doing what he calls them to do. The change is good for us. It will also challenge us to follow the Lord with the same intensity and passion that they did.
Acts is about church life. God designed his church to be the temple of the Holy Spirit. We are meant to have deep relationships with one another and with the Lord (1 John 1:1-4). But the book of Acts isn’t a glossy advertisement; it shows the messiness of church life. There can be people that are hard to work with and relationships can become frayed. We need to hear that and learn from what happened in those early churches.
Acts demonstrates what the power of the Holy Spirit can do. Churches naturally drift toward being powered by people rather than by the Holy Spirit. This is so common that many have never seen what the power of the Spirit looks like in the church. If they have, it has been the 9-volt battery variety. You know, just enough to say there is power there, but no one is going to get hurt. But the power of the Spirit in the Book of Acts is so awesome that people actually die (Acts 5). It is power that carried the gospel across the Roman Empire and turned the world upside down.
Acts chronicles believers living the Christian life in a hostile environment. Today we live in a country that is turning its back on the gospel. How do you follow Christ when people around you are indifferent to him? What do you do when people reject Jesus? How do you handle it when people reject you because of Jesus? Believers not only get mocked, but imprisoned, tortured, and killed in the book of Acts. We need to learn from them how to follow Christ in difficult places.
Finally, there is a hunger stirring in me to see the Spirit move as in days of old. I’m not talking about hyper-charismania where the emotionally-challenged seek spiritual highs. I mean the types of things you see in the book of Acts. Where the Word is proclaimed and the Spirit presses it home with power, where believers are witnessing to friends and strangers with the anointing of the Spirit, where there is an intense hatred of the sin in our lives and a panting after righteousness, where believers are passionately in love with Jesus, where missionaries are called and sent to the ends of the earth, where Scripture is studied and applied under the guidance of the Spirit, where the shackled are set free and the broken are healed, where the forces of darkness are pushed back, and where the King reigns supreme. That’s what I want to be a part of.
How about you?
- Pastor Karl
It’s that time of year again. In our American culture, it’s time for decorating, buying presents, baking cookies, celebrating with family and friends, singing Christmas carols, and hopefully, also worshipping the Lord Jesus, who truly is “the reason for the season”.
One Christmas tradition that is also a REALLY BIG DEAL to some people is watching Christmas movies. Even if you’re not much of a movie watcher, you’ve probably seen at least a few holiday films in your lifetime. Some are classics from way back, like A Christmas Carol, It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, or Santa Claus is Coming to Town.
We’ve also got some more modern classics, like The Grinch, Elf, and Home Alone. There are horror movies, adventure/drama movies, comedies, and romances, all with a Christmas theme.
But of all the Christmas movies available, movie experts say that one stands out as having actually changed the Christmas movie genre. Even though it was released over 35 years ago, you can still find it playing in theaters at this time of year. On television you will find marathons from Christmas Eve to Christmas Day, where one station plays the film over and over again for 24 hours straight, attracting more than 40 million viewers. I’m speaking of A Christmas Story, the film about nine-year-old Ralphie Parker, who desperately wants a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas, even though everyone keeps telling him that “you’ll shoot your eye out!”
Movie critics say that this movie was the first one to show things the way they really were for most families at Christmastime, and to show it from a kid’s perspective. Not everything was rosy in 1940 in Hammond IN, the setting for the movie. Ralphie had to contend with a bully at school and his grumpy dad at home, as well as the usual sibling rivalry with his brother. He was obsessed with getting his Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas, but it didn’t look promising. Mr. and Mrs. Parker seemed at odds with one another, and Ralphie’s mother seemed to be trying to hold the family together.
The thing that makes A Christmas Story’s success so amazing is that it was an incredibly LOW BUDGET film. Think about it…there were no real “special effects”, no fancy sets, the actors weren’t the biggest names around, and it was actually filmed mostly in Cleveland!
When it was released, it wasn’t projected to do very well, and although it was modestly successful, it disappeared in two weeks. Then a funny thing happened. With the advent of VHS players in homes, people were interested in buying movies, and A Christmas Story was in in the right place at the right time. Before you knew it, people were snatching it up and watching it in the comfort of their own living rooms. Over the years, people made it a part of their regular holiday tradition. Some people invented games and activities, contests and even conventions based on the movie. Over the last 35 years, this low-budget, unlikely film has risen to become one of the most popular American Christmas movies of all time.
In the same way, wasn’t Bethlehem an unlikely place for the King of the Universe to show up? Weren’t Mary and Joseph the least likely people to be his parents? Isn’t it kind of strange that a baby who was so poor that he had to sleep with the animals became the most powerful figure in human history? And wasn’t it shocking that lowly shepherds-people on the bottom rung of society-were the first to hear the news that the Messiah had arrived?
God the Father had it planned this way all along. He was doing a new thing. He was doing it His way, not the way that people expected. He was breaking the mold, and bringing news of great joy that was for all the people. He was fulfilling His promises and the prophecies that had been uttered centuries before. He was sending Emmanuel, “God with us”, who would save his people from their sins. That’s the real Christmas Story, no matter what time of year it is.
- Janet Emerson
The Bible is full of heroes that inspire us by their faith-filled exploits. Daniel in the lion’s den, Noah building the ark, and Elijah calling down fire from heaven capture our imaginations and create within us a yearning to follow in their footsteps.
Perhaps no one is a greater example of the life of faith than Abraham. God called him to leave his native country and go to a new land. He and his then-childless wife would eventually have more descendants than there were stars in the sky and all of the nations of the world would be blessed through him. While far from perfect, Abraham’s faithful obedience is held up in the Scriptures as a model for all of us to follow. He is called the father of those who have faith (Galatians 3:7-9).
Romans 4:20 has a great secret that points the way to developing a faith like Abraham’s. “No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God.” Abraham was in the habit of giving glory to God before he received the answer to the promise.
Many of us will remember to thank God afterwards for the blessings that he gives us. Our thankfulness may even turn to worship. Abraham glorified God even when it appeared that it would be impossible for God to keep his promise. And the practice of glorifying God caused his faith to grow deeper and more certain.
What does it mean to glorify God? The term “glory” means that something is weighty or honorable. When referring to the Lord, it means that which makes God impressive. Of course, each of his attributes is impressive. We cannot add to the “weight” of them, but by focusing on them and acknowledging them we bring him honor.
By developing the discipline of glorifying God, we change the “weight” which we allow things to have in our lives. We tend to focus on our problems. As we do, we give our problems “glory” and they become heavier in our minds. If we focus on God, he becomes heavier and our problems lighter.
What does this look like? How do we glorify God so that our faith grows stronger?
I find that I need to set aside time to worship. Sunday morning is a good place to start. The music team at Word of Life does a good job of setting the table for us to worship. The music is God-focused and invites us to glorify him. It’s possible to simply sing along or enjoy the quality of music, so I need to intentionally focus on the Lord and the aspect of his character that the music is highlighting. In my mind (or out loud) I say, “Yes, Lord, this is true about you. You are holy. You are powerful. You are faithful.” The music, along with the encouragement of the people around me singing, makes it easy to shift my vision from my problems to God.
But an hour on Sunday isn’t enough. We need to have regular times of private worship as well. Let me give you three tips to developing a habit of glorifying God:
As you spend time focusing on the greatness of God you will discover that your faith in him will grow. As your faith in him grows, you find that obedience to him will become easier. You will pray with more certainty and start to walk in the footsteps of Abraham
“I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.” – Psalm 89:1
In this verse Ethan the Ezrahite (the writer) declares that he will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord forever. Faithful lovingkindness is a fundamental aspect of the character of God and the writer’s heart is overflowing with joy as he thinks about how his life has been sustained and blessed by Lord.
But he goes beyond simply the “God and me” focus of the beginning of the verse. He commits himself to declaring God’s faithfulness to all generations, and that is something that we need to think about. As I look at Word of Life, I see a range of ages. There are children, youth, young singles and couples, young parents, middle-agers, “primetimers”, and those who have been “primetimers” for quite a while. If the psalmist were here, he would be thinking about how he could remind each of these generations about the faithfulness of God. How about you?
Regardless of the stage of life we are in, we need to be reminded of the faithfulness of God. The young mother that is exhausted from chasing toddlers and wondering where she will find strength to do it another day needs to be encouraged. The teenager who is wondering whether following Jesus is worth it needs to be reminded that God will be faithful to bless their obedience. The elderly person who is struggling because of never-ending health problems needs to be reinvigorated with stories of the faithfulness of God. Perhaps even you need to be refreshed with a first-person account of the faithfulness of God.
One of the reasons that we gather together is so that we can encourage one another. We can listen to sermons online and we can sing along with the music on our phones, but we cannot encourage one another well without being together. That’s why the writer to the Hebrews tells us to consider how to stir one another up to love and good deeds. He then tells us not to stop meeting together, but to meet to encourage one another (Hebrews 10:25).
Can I challenge you to do something? When you are at church next time, ask the Lord to show you someone from a different generation that needs some encouragement. Then come alongside them and share a story of the faithful loving-kindness of the Lord in your life. Make the faithfulness of the Lord known to that generation. Don’t be scared, everyone likes to be encouraged with stories of the steadfast love of the Lord!
Hezekiah was a man who birthed a revival and saw the Lord do mighty things in his life. He was one of the great kings in the history of God’s people (2 Kings 18:5). He came to power following the death of Ahaz, one of the worst kings. He immediately began to bring the people back to the worship of God. He repaired the Temple and removed all the pagan idols that had been set up there. This included the bronze serpent, which Moses had made at the Lord’s command, because it had become an object of worship. It was one of the greatest revivals in the Old Testament. Hezekiah was a man who knew revival.
He also experienced victory on the battlefield. For the people of Israel, possession of the land was a sign that their relationship with the Lord was right. As revival swept Israel, the Lord gave them military victory against the Philistines who had captured some of their cities. Even more astonishing, Hezekiah saw the hand of God deliver them from the might of the Assyrians, who were the major military power of the day. Hezekiah was a man who knew success.
He also saw God’s supernatural work in his physical body. He was at the point of death when the prophet Isaiah came to see him and said, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Set your house in order for you shall die, you shall not recover.’” Hezekiah prayed and asked the Lord to extend his life because he had sought to serve him wholeheartedly. Isaiah returned with a new prophetic word, “Thus says the Lord: ‘I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will add fifteen years to your life. I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and will defend this city.’” Not only did God heal him, he gave him a sign to verify the deliverance to come: the shadow of the sun went backwards on the sundial! (Isaiah 38:1-8). Hezekiah was a man who knew the miraculous power of God.
Hezekiah had walked with the Lord for a long time, experiencing the blessings of obedience, and therein lies a great danger that threatens to trap all of us.
Hezekiah was at the peak of his power and was standing in the stream of the blessings of the Lord when he received envoys from a distant kingdom. This is not uncommon. Rulers often exchange letters and gifts with one another as a sign of goodwill. Hezekiah welcomed these particular envoys gladly because they had traveled over 500 miles with a gift to celebrate his recovery from near-death. Hezekiah showed them around. He showed them his treasure house filled with silver and gold. He opened the doors them his entire armory with all of the weapons at the disposal of his army. He displayed the storehouses filled with all kinds of goods to them. He showed them everything.
After they left, the prophet Isaiah arrived and asked, “Who were those men? What did they say? Where did they come from?” Hezekiah explained they had come from the distant country of Babylon. Isaiah want to know what they had seen and Hezekiah told him all that he had shown them all the riches of the kingdom.
Isaiah spoke a stern word to Hezekiah: “Hear the word of the Lord of hosts: ‘Behold the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left,’ says the Lord. ‘And some of your own sons, who will come from you, whom you will father, shall be taken away and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.’”
This is a stinging rebuke. In his desire to impress the envoys he had exposed the kingdom to great risk. That’s the practical viewpoint, but the spiritual reality is that Israel is secure as long as they are in right relationship with the Lord and Isaiah’s words expose the reality that all is not right. The riches and the people of Israel are soon to be ripped away from the land and carried off to Babylon.
Hezekiah, the king who had led the country into revival, who had known the success that comes from obedience, and who had seen mighty miracles of God, should have immediately repented of his sin and spent his remaining days doing all that he could to see that future generations would pursue the Lord wholeheartedly. Perhaps the Lord would relent like he had done before when he healed Hezekiah. Perhaps there was a chance that his sons would not be forced to serve as eunuchs in the palace of the Babylonian king.
Hezekiah heard the ominous prophetic warning from the lips of Isaiah and said, “The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “There will be peace and security in my days.” What a twisted understanding of the word of the Lord! What was a reproof he understood as a blessing! (Isaiah 38:1-8).
We must never underestimate the ability of our sinful hearts to bend the word of God to try to dull its convicting work in our lives. This danger never disappears. In fact, often those who have been walking with the Lord and experienced his blessings (revival, success, miracles) are often the most susceptible to this trap. We rest on the treasure of a life of following the Lord and it dulls our hearts and we become deaf to the convicting work of the Lord even while immersed in the Word. We think of the revival and healings we have experienced and forget that it does not make us an expert: we will always be dependent upon the Holy Spirit to understand the word of God and apply it to our lives.
We are in great danger if we think that we have arrived at a place of invulnerability because of the experiences of God we have had in the past. Paul writes, “Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed, lest he fall” (I Corinthians 10:12). This is what happened to Hezekiah. His pride and experience made him blind to the correction and rebuke of the Lord. Because he was in a place of peace and security at the moment, he misinterpreted and misapplied the word of the Lord.
This is a warning to each of us that we must remain humble and seek to understand what the Lord is saying to us through his word. He lovingly brings correction and we need hearts soft enough to be moldable when he does, otherwise our proud flesh will distort the words and we will confuse rebuke for blessing and keep stumbling toward disaster.
In my last post I wrote about "the trap". It is a scheme of the evil one that ensnares many believers. He tempts the believer and seductively lures us into sin and then viciously attacks us when we sin. It is a strategy designed to keep the believer from from following after God.
There were two reactions to the article. Some people thanked me for exposing the trap. They realised that they had experienced this same thing themselves. One person even realised that the trap described exactly what they were experiencing. The image helped them get back on their feet spiritually and start walking with Jesus again. There was grace and forgiveness to be found in Christ.
Others were concerned that I was somehow condoning sin in the life of the follower of Christ. They reasoned that people would understand my article to think that sin was somehow okay and we should tolerate it in our lives. Nothing could be farther from the truth. "Sin is okay" is yet another trap of the enemy. It's a lie that he whispers to keep us from experiencing the freedom of a holy life.
Two Key Truths
There are two key truths that Paul says make up a "sure foundation". They are both extremely important.
The first is this: the Lord knows who are his.
The mystery of God's choosing is shrouded in his will. We were chosen before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight (Eph 1). Jesus said that he knows his sheep and that his sheep know the sound of his voice. When we come to faith in Christ we are sealed with the Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance.
If you have been born again by the Spirit of God, you have been adopted by Him. You are a son or daughter of the Most High.
You don't become a Christian by being born into a Christian family. You become a Chrisitan, in the biblical sense, by regeneration. You have to be born again. We experience several things as we are born again: repentance and faith. We repent of our sins and we believe the gospel. Jesus, the Son of God, died for our sins and rose from the dead.
You will never be more "his" than when you were born again. However, we need to remember that regeneration (being born again) is, like physical birth, only the first step of a life with the Lord. And just as a baby grows and becomes like their parents, we are to grow and become more like Jesus.
That brings us to the second key truth:
Those who call on the Lord must turn away from wickedness.
We are called to live holy lives. Sin and rebellion against God are never okay. They diminish our fellowship with God, rob us of joy and peace, spoil our spiritual fruit, and damage relationships. We are called to be holy. We must remember that!
We are to put off the old man and put on the new. We are to get rid of sinful attitudes and actions. We are to learn to live lives of love. Read Colossians 3:1-14; Ephesians 4-5; 1 Peter 1:13-16.
There is a great deception in the land: salvation without holiness. There are people who point to some past event and say to themselves, "I've got that heaven thing taken care of so I don't have to worry about that. I might as well 'enjoy life' and live like the devil!" Some point to their infant baptism and others to a "salvation prayer" at a crusade as their "get out of hell free" card. But in either, their true hearts are exposed: they are not saved. The redeemed desire to live lives of holiness! Don't be deceived: Those who call on the Lord must turn away from wickedness!
For those that build their lives on these truths the transformation can be amazing. Drugs and alcohol lose their grip. Greed turns into generosity. Anger into patience and gentleness. Despair turns to hope.
But sometimes we fall. When we do, the enemy wants us to believe that our sin has ruined our hope of heaven. That's the trap I wrote about.
But heaven was never based on our performance. We are saved by grace through faith. Our relationship with God is based on the finished work of Jesus Christ. He died for our sins. He offers us grace and mercy. From beginning to end, our salvation is based on grace. When we sin, we need to repent, receive forgiveness, and and continue to walk the highway of holiness.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Note: This article was originally posted on pastorkarlsblog.blogspot.com on November 4, 2016
This post was originally posted on Pastor Karl's old blog. You can find that blog here.
It is an insidious trap built by Satan himself.
He dangles temptation in front of us and fans the smouldering embers of our fallen nature with a sweet hypnotic voice. Like Eve of old, we see the forbidden fruit and it appears pleasant and good. The ancient serpent, having stoked our fallen nature to a brilliant blaze, whispers encouragement and so we partake...again. There is a moment of pleasure followed by searing guilt. The voice that was so sweetly encouraging us to sin becomes the voice of the accuser. "Guilty! Filthy! Failure! You claim to be a Christian but you are not! A Christian would never do that! It's too late...there will be no forgiveness this time!" It all sounds true. You feel so alone. So terribly horribly alone.
Somehow another voice begins to whisper that the pleasure of sin will make the loneliness more tolerable. Another forbidden fruit appears, more tantalising than the last. In your loneliness it seems like an oasis. And the cycle plunges you ever deeper and feelings of loneliness separated by fleeting moments of pleasure seem to become your way of life. The cycle is a trap all too familiar to the followers of Christ.
How do you move on?
Of course the best was to get out of any trap is to avoid it altogether, but I want to address those who are in the trap. You are in the quicksand. You feel like an athlete who is about to be cut from the team for making too many bad plays. Are you there? I've been there.
Let me share a secret with you: The ending of the story is glorious.
You think that story began with a decision to follow Christ and is ending with your failure. But the story didn't begin with you. It began with Him. He called you. He picked you. The One who sees the end from the beginning chose you to belong to him. Look at the ground, then look at the sky. He chose you before those things even existed. He knew all about your weaknesses and your failings and he chose you in spite of them. He wants you. He desires you. You feel lonely. The Lord of the Universe loves you. He overwhelmed your defences and you said yes to him. But he did the overwhelming. He knew what you had done and he wanted you.
He also knew that you would fail. More than once.
He called you anyway.
It really is incredible, isn't it?
The story is about him. You are involved, but the hero isn't you. It's him.
Paul tells us in the first chapter of Ephesians that God lavished on you the riches of his grace. Grace is something that you don't deserve, cannot earn, and can never repay. Where you sit right now, feeling alone and guilty, is the exact moment that you need to know his grace. He knows that. He understands that and in his wisdom he gives you his grace.
He isn't a miser who looks at you and tries to figure our just how much grace you need. "Let's see, yesterday he needed 14 millilitres of grace but today he really screwed up so I guess we'll have to give him 27." No, he is lavishing it on you. He is opening the floodgates of heaven and pouring his grace and forgiveness on you. You are standing under the Niagara Falls of his grace. Right now.
Before the foundation of the world he knew that this moment was coming, and he wants you to know know that your cries for forgiveness have been heard. You have been forgiven. John writes, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). His grace is poured out because of his wisdom and understanding. He knew and knows and he loved you and loves you still. His grace joyously flows over you abundantly.
And the greatness of the grace poured out on you causes angels to worship in awestruck wonder.
The story ends in a wedding. Remember that. You are the bride of Christ. He has chosen you. In spite of what you feel at the moment, you have an engagement ring on your finger. You are his. You are on your way to a glorious wedding: yours (Eph 1:13-14; 5:25-32). The story is not about how well you perform. It is about his grace. You love him. He knows that. And the story is about his love and his lavish grace. So put the focus back where it belongs: on Jesus.
So what next?
Here are some things that you can do:
Reflections on LIFE 2019 Conference
Thanks, Word of Life family for all the prayers, fasting, and support for our youth!
We put so much of ourselves into one week of the year that it is weird for it to be over.
There is almost a post-Life conference shock. We are still processing through everything that we saw and heard, adjusting to living in our contexts again, and, personally, I feel like I have to adjust back to doing normal pastoral things again. No more double-checking logistics and communicating airline regulations! Yay!
As all that is happening, there are some key points that are getting thought through right now:
Our group opened up and grew as a family in Christ. We opened up about the pain of injustices in the world. We opened up and shared how Jesus was at work in us. We opened up and shared even what some would say are trivial facts about ourselves. But the sum of all this was greater than the parts. Through all Christ was doing through the week to build our relationships, we grew as a family in Christ.
Tied to this, it seems like Jesus made our students (even leaders) braver. Brave to say what they are feeling, thinking, and sensing. Brave to let people into their world, to speak up, and speak out. Brave to rest in the promises and truth of Jesus and not the labels of the world.
Lastly, Life conference made it obvious that we have not lost a generation. I never thought we had. God is too faithful. I read the articles and hear the noise of all the negative views of the next generation. There is a difference however, between seeing the grimly spun statistics and experiencing God at work. The people hitting the panic button haven’t seen what we just saw. There were more than 4000 students worshiping Jesus with everything they’ve got. There were 34 first-time confessions of faith, 108 rededications to Christ. There were more than 300 students who heard a call to vocational ministry, whether missionary or pastoral. The more than 5,400 people in attendance gave over $200,000 (between cash gifts and online giving) for an orphanage ministry, called Silver Lining, in Myanmar.
Let that sink in. Let the reality of what Jesus is doing in and through teenagers sink in deep enough so that it is louder, more convincing, and truer than the latest complaint about them in media.
So, let’s have the youth do it! Sorry, I am not saying the youth should do manual labor, all the dirty jobs, or valet park cars on Sunday. Let’s have the youth do the work of the ministry! Let’s let them loose to teach English to Bhutanese refugees, lead community outreaches, guide prayer times, preach and teach, disciple others, help with agencies that are working to end human trafficking, and do all this for King Jesus, the advancement of the Gospel, and the growth of the Kingdom.
Will you still support them in this by sharing your time, your wisdom, and your encouragement? Will you still support them by humbly stepping aside, handing over the keys, and then watch to see what Jesus does?
I had the unique privilege of attending LIFE 2019 as a student leader. Before I left for the LIFE conference, when it came up in conversations that I was going to Orlando, people would ask me why I was going. I tried to explain that it was a youth conference for the high school students in our congregation, but I found myself struggling to define it to people who had never heard of it before. I had never been to a LIFE conference myself, so I really only knew about the seminars, worship time and service projects. As I tried to describe this conference to people outside of the CMA, I found myself sometimes questioning why we were going all the way to Orlando for some seminars, some worship and a service project.
What I experienced at LIFE 2019 is difficult to describe in just a few sentences, but one of the major messages I heard from our leadership within the CMA is that we - as followers of Christ - must invest in the next generation. As followers of Christ, we must invest ourselves to spread the gospel to regions beyond, and we must invest ourselves in the next generation. Nobody ever said those words, per se - it was just clear in everything that we heard, in the way everything was planned, in the quality of everything they did. Our young people are important, and we need to invest in them. And the investment they need most is our time.
I also experienced the joy of getting to know these young people at a level that simply is not possible during a once-a-week service on Sunday mornings. These young people have dreams, fears, plans, challenges, pursuits, hurts and hopes that are unique to each person and can be used as their greatest tool for beauty and kingdom growth in the hands of our God. Or those same things can be used as the enemy's greatest weapon against them. We must commit to do everything we can to walk with them, listen to them, seek to understand them and then share with them what we know about who God is and how He has worked in our lives.
What better investment could we make?
The Psalms are a treasure chest full of riches. Some, like Psalm 23 are well known while others are obscure. One of the most famous psalms is Psalm 119. Its notoriety comes from being the longest of all the psalms. Weighing in at 176 verses, it has derailed many Bible reading plans. It is the longest chapter in the Bible and has over twice as many verses as the next longest psalm! You may be surprised to know that it has become one of my go-to psalms in the Bible.
My love of the psalm started when I was going through a dry time in my devotions. My bible reading had become somewhat routine and perfunctory. At the same time, I was reading Ancient Paths by Corey Russell. I was startled to discover that Psalm 119 was one of his favorite psalms. He caused me to take a fresh look at it. But I don’t want to teach you about the psalm. I want you to encounter what I did as I began looking at the it.
Let me encourage you to start your devotional time with Psalm 119. Don’t read the whole thing, but read it a section at time. The psalm is an acrostic poem broken down into 22 sections following the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Each verse in a given section starts with the same letter of the alphabet. Even though you cannot see this in the English text, it provides handy bite-sized sections to meditate on.
So read a section, then pause and reflect on the what it says. Perhaps you will want to underline different subjects. Say a prayer based on what you see and then move on with your regular bible reading.
I think you’ll be surprised at the results. The psalm is a reflection of David’s passion for encountering the Lord through the Word. As you work your way through the psalm over 3 weeks, you will find his passion to be contagious and your heart will soon be ablaze for Jesus and his word!
Word of Life Staff
A place for the Word of Life staff and guest writers to share of themselves in writing with the Word of Life family.