Praise and Thanksgiving

Sunday_Psalm 69_30_Praise and Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day may have come and gone, but may our giving of thanks never end!

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Crushing the Heart of God

Ezekiel 6_9_Crushing the Heart of God

It’s hard for us to imagine that the all-powerful, sovereign Creator of the universe has a heart capable of being broken.  Yet that’s exactly the way God described Himself when His children turn away from Him.

I was crushed by their promiscuous hearts that turned away from Me and by their eyes that lusted after their idols.  (Ezekiel 6:9, HCSB)

The original wording God used to describe His reaction to the faithlessness of His children meant “broken, or broken to pieces.”  Various translations say God was “hurt, grieved, crushed, anguished, or broken.”  My grandfather used to say that pain is the price we pay for the ability to love.  If that’s true, this verse demonstrates God loves us deeply because He experiences deep pain over us.

What was it that wounded God so?  It was the fact that the hearts and eyes of His children were drawn off of Him and on to other things.  God longs to be the primary object of our affection, and He wishes to be the One we look to for provision, protection, and love.  When anything or anyone bumps God from that #1 spot in our hearts, He is hurt.

Be honest with yourself today.  Are you hurting the heart of God by placing anything (or anyone) above Him?  He loves you deeply and wants His love returned. –Dave

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Better than Soap

Psalm 51_2_Better than Soap

The soap obviously wasn’t enough.  While driving home from the gym my nose itched and when I used the back of my hand to scratch it, I could still smell the chlorine. For 40 minutes I had been immersed in pool water.  Following my workout I showered and headed for home.  But a five-minute shower was apparently not enough to remove the stench of the chlorine; it had apparently soaked into my skin.

The faint smell of chlorine immediately brought David’s words from Psalm 51 to mind.

Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. (Psalm 51:2)

I had been washed from the outside, yet I could still smell what was within!  David worded his request to God with very specific language. “Wash away” described an outward cleaning – similar to washing the exterior of our car.  However, to be “cleansed” carried the idea of being made thoroughly pure – suggestive of inward purity.

David wanted both.  David needed both.  And even in the aftermath of murder and adultery, God provided both!  Amazing grace indeed!  If the story of David and Bathsheba teaches us anything, it ought to be that the reach of God’s grace has no limits.  Later, David would say the grace of God made him whiter than snow (v.7).

Friends, your efforts to remove sin will never be enough.  Thankfully, the Lord is willing to wash them all away and make you thoroughly pure from the inside out.  Never hesitate to cry out to Him for His forgiveness; He’s eager to extend His grace. –Dave

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Circling the Ads

Psalm 23_1_Circling the Ads

His suggestion stopped me in my tracks.  The day before Thanksgiving, my dear friend and I had gathered to catch up and spend a few moments together in prayer.  Before long the topics of Thanksgiving and Black Friday came up.  We both rather bemoaned the encroachment of Black Friday, which seemed to start right after Halloween (or did they even wait that long)?!

However, my friend came up with a wonderful way to combine all the Black Friday ads with the heart of Thanksgiving.  He asked, “Dave, what would happen if we gathered all those ads, and instead of circling the items we wanted, we circled the items we already had?”

What a brilliant question and exercise.  While marketers obviously want their ads to generate a sense of need and even entitlement, what if we took those same ads and used them to take inventory of all God has already provided?  We could then use those heavily circled ads as a sort of “Prayer Journal” – a visual representation of the incredible ways God has blessed.

TVs?  Check.  Stereos?  Got ‘em.  Washer/Dryer?  Yep – and plenty of clothes to use them on.  Refrigerator?  Yes – and stuffed full.  Dishwasher?  Absolutely – with lots of dirty dishes reminding me I’ve eaten well.  You get the idea.  Truth be told, most of us have all we really need.

Rarely do I give ya’ll an assignment.  But today, spend a few minutes with all those ads and a pen circling everything you already own (even if it’s not the latest model).  Now praise the One who has provided you with so much.  Happy Thanksgiving! –Dave

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. (Psalm 23:1)

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Stand in Truth

John 17_17_Word is the Truth

“Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.” (Abraham Lincoln)

When Paul described the full armor of God with which we are to withstand the spiritual forces of evil, he began with the belt of truth.  It seems like an unlikely place to start because a belt is so small and seemingly insignificant compared to larger parts of the armor.  I mean, why not begin with the breastplate or shield?

Let’s remember that the order in which Paul presented them was inspired – and God wanted to impress upon us that the first protection against the devil and his worldly system is truth.  You see, if we don’t start right, we cannot finish right.  If we don’t believe the correct things, we will not fight for the right things.  We will not know what to stand up for and what to stand against.

In short, without being properly prepared with truth we will not correctly identify the enemy and the fight we’re to be engaged in.  While that sounds pretty straightforward, we live in an age of “Your truth, my truth, and no absolute truth.”  So how in the world can we know we’re standing firmly on real truth?  Great question; let’s allow Jesus Himself to answer it!  When praying for His disciples, Christ said:

Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. (John 17:17)

Friends, put your feet in the Word of God, then stand firm; it is THE truth! –Dave

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Fear is Futile

Romans 8_31_Fear is Futile

Once in a while, I come across a message that simply needs to be shared without much editorializing.  Like so many of you, I struggle with various fears, so today I’d like to share the following words on the topic from Pastor Selwyn Hughes.

When Simon Peter stepped out of the boat and attempted to walk on the water to Jesus, he was afraid. “And beginning to sink he cried out ‘Lord, save me!’” (Matthew 14:30).  Fear makes you sink.

When Jesus healed the paralytic, His first word was, “Have courage, son,” and His second, “Your sins are forgiven” (Matthew 9:2).  When Jesus lifted the guilt, this lifted the fear which, in turn, lifted the paralysis.

When the disciples fell on their faces at the top of the Mount of Transfiguration, terrified because they had heard the voice of God, Jesus said: “Get up; don’t be afraid” (Matthew 17:7).  Fear puts you  down; faith lifts you up.

The man who brought back the unused talent said: “I was afraid and went off and hid your talent in the ground” (Matthew 25:25).  His life investment was in a hole in the ground!  Fear did it.

Again, it was said of the disciples that they were gathered, “with the doors locked because of their fear of the Jews” (John 20:19).  Fear always puts you behind closed doors; it causes you to become an ingrown person.

Joseph of Arimathea was “a disciple of Jesus – but secretly because of his fear of the Jews” (John 19:38).  Fear always drives a person underground.

Look at the effects of fear mentioned above.  It makes us sink, steals our courage, puts us down, paralyzes us, puts us behind closed doors, and drives us underground.  No wonder the consistent message of Scripture is DO NOT FEAR.  If God is for us, who indeed can be against us! (Romans 8:31) –Dave

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Standing in the Gap

Ezekiel 22_30_Standing in the Gap

It’s one of the saddest statements in all of Scripture, and it was uttered by God Himself.  In the days when Israel was about to be captured and hauled away by the Babylonians, God had tried to warn them.  Israel had turned its collective back on the Lord and began worshipping other gods.  As a result, Nebuchadnezzar was tearing down Jerusalem’s walls, soon to plow through them altogether.

It was at this point God stated:

I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one. (Ezekiel 22:30)

If you listen with your heart, you can hear the sorrow in His voice…“I looked, but I found no one.”  What exactly was God searching for?  From my understanding, the Lord wanted someone willing to stand in the gap between Him and the people for the purpose of protecting them.  Building up the wall was a means of protection from other men; standing in the gap was a means of protection from God.

It’s this latter role that I want to focus on today.  It’s not a fun subject, but the reality is that God is reluctantly willing to justly hold people accountable for their decisions and actions.  If they refuse to repent from sinful, self-focused living, He will honor that choice which leads to their destruction.  One willing to stand in the gap is a person who will declare this truth to those at risk, calling them to the forgiveness found only in Christ.

Still today, God seeks men and women willing to share the hope of the gospel – the only thing that will prevent the judgment of God from falling upon sinful man.  Will God find no one today?  Or will you stand in the gap for Him?  –Dave

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