Psalm 119:11

Psalm 119:11

I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

This is so we are continually guided by the Lord’s precepts. Our default as humans is what we think is best, and that will always be self-serving. God’s word opposes our nature, which is why memorizing it is so helpful.

The meaning here of ‘stored’ means to conceal or treasure, much like someone would do with money or jewels. This really implies that the word of God is a treasure, which is absolutely true.

Work today to remind yourself of how valuable God’s word is. We cannot possible live in a way that glorifies Him without it. Humble yourself to recognize your need for His guidance, so you might not sin against Him.

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Psalm 119:10

Psalm 119:10

Seeking the Lord with our whole heart means that we do it wholeheartedly and thoroughly. The lukewarm heart needs to be set on fire. When we go through a period of indifference to the Lord, we need to fight for joy, lean on others, and be self aware. Many times we wander from the Lord’s commandments because we aren’t thinking of them. Other times we know them, but don’t care enough about them to obey.

This is why being part of a healthy local church is so important. The mature help the immature. Those who are flourishing spiritually, help those who are struggling. Those who are discouraged can see that others are experiencing trials far worse than theirs, and it gives perspective. Ultimately, when the local church as a whole cares well for her members, it is rare for someone to struggle in isolation. This brings glory to the Lord.

Psalm 119:8

Psalm 119:8

This verse is a recognition of our need for God’s help in obeying His commands. It is impossible for the unregenerate to obey. There may be outward conformity in some of the things of the Lord, but the heart, mind and soul still rebel. For the believer, you won’t grow in holiness if you try to merely clean up your outward actions and words. Heart change will drive a walk that is in line with the Lord’s commands. Where there is no change in walk, there has been no change in heart, and therefore conversion never occurred.

Examine yourself today, to see if you are in the faith. – 2 Corinthians 13:5

Do you have an interest in God’s word? Has it made you more like Christ?

Two very simple questions to help with the self-examination commanded in 2 Corinthians 13:5.

Psalm 119:7

The more we understand God’s word, the more praise we give Him.  His word shows us how great He is, and how desperately we need Him because of our sin.  Our hearts do become more upright, as conforming to His word changes our desires.

Are you depressed, worried, discouraged?  Have you thought about spending more time in God’s word as a remedy?  Have you had trouble with relationships, particularly with managing conflict and loving others?  Consider the bible as a playbook, and think about how hard it is to take the right steps independently.

We can’t grow if we don’t spend consistent time in His word.  This is a struggle for many, so ask those closest to you in your church to help.  Ask for accountability, and know yourself well enough to recognize the need for help.

Psalm 119:4

Psalm 119:4

In verse 4, the command is not only to keep the Lords precepts, but the keep them diligently. How do we do this? Well, first and foremost, we need to know what they are. We can’t possibly keep the Lord’s commands if we don’t know them, and the only way to know them is to study His word. For those who have been around church for years, some of these are no-brainers; love the Lord, love others, and refrain from killing and stealing.

However, did you know that there is a command in the bible that has to do with assembling together regularly with your local church? Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Habitual corporate worship is a command in the Bible, and the context here is so that we’d encourage each other to bear fruit because we’ll give an account for our lives to the Lord.

Men, are you leading your family to regularly attend your local church? Doing this diligently is your responsibility. Make 2015 the year where you don’t let other silly priorities (NFL playoffs, birthday parties, select sports, extra sleep, etc.) get in the way of obeying scripture.

Psalm 119:3

Psalm 119:3

Continuing on the theme of being blessed (i.e. content, satisfied, and secure in the Lord, not merely happy), the Psalmist says something which may seem unrealistic. He’s referring to those “who also do no wrong” as blessed. How is this possible?

Throughout scripture we see things which may on the surface seem contradictory. But if we want to be thoughtful and consistent, we’ll dig deeper. The bible says that all of us do wrong; “None is righteous, no not one.” (Romans 3:10) So how do we understand Psalm 119:3 in light of this truth? Well, we certainly want to strive for perfect obedience. Given the fact that we can’t be sinless this side of heaven, what does it mean to do no wrong?

I think our answer lies in Matthew 18. Jesus gave instructions on how to handle believers who were persistent and unrepentant in their sin. After gently and carefully walking alongside such a person (read more about biblical church discipline and membership here Continue reading

Psalm 119:2

Psalm 119:2

Those who keep the Lord’s testimonies are sure to seek after Him. If His word is precious, then the Lord Himself is even more so. This is a very important piece of following the Lord, because our reward in heaven will be fellowship with Him. So, if fellowship with Him now is not attractive to you, then you really aren’t going to like heaven very much.

If we really know the power of the gospel we must seek the God of the gospel. The further someone grows in spiritual maturity, the more spiritual their interests become. An outward walk is not good enough for the true believer. They know their own desires and thoughts, and recognize just how evil they are. Those who are saved will seek the Lord, and will love to have fellowship with Him. Our love for Him will never be consistent this side of heaven, but one day when we see Him, we’ll be able to perfectly reciprocate His perfect love for us.

Revelation Overview

Revelation Overview

The message of the book of Revelation is this: We are waiting for the sovereign God to come, execute his judgments, deliver us through the blood of the Lamb, and bring us into his presence forever. So this is where our trust must lie. Is this what you are waiting for?

There are certainly smaller things you are waiting for. Maybe you are waiting for retirement, or for a check to come in the mail. There are lots of things we anticipate. But in your heart, more than any anything else, are you waiting for the sovereign God to execute his judgments, save us through the blood of the Lamb, and bring us into his presence forever?

The future holds many things. For God’s people, it holds his coming above all else. If you are a Christian, you are not to spend your life worrying, but waiting. The future is not meaningless, anonymous, foreboding, and empty. No,
it is full and bright. It is a future with God! So the Christian is not afraid of the future; he is in love with it. When Jesus promises at the end of Revelation, “I am coming soon,” John responds, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (22:20). This is the ultimate desire of every saint. If you are waiting for anything else, here is a good question to ask yourself: Is your wait worth it? This is the hope we were made to run on.

If you are a non-Christian, you too are in this book. John addresses “Whoever is thirsty.” The whole verse reads, “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life” (22:17). You are giving your life for something. You are waiting for something. What are you waiting for? Is it worth the wait? Whatever it is, will it last? Put your hope in Christ, for He is our only hope that will last beyond this life.

Jude Overview

Jude Overview

Like most of the other general epistles, the title of this little book takes its name from its author. Most scholars identify the writer as Jude the half-brother of Jesus for at least two reasons. First, he identified himself as the “brother of James” (Jude 1:1), meaning he was probably not the apostle named Jude, a man who was called “the son of James” (Luke 6:16). That the author of the book of Jude identified himself as the brother of James likely aligns him with the family of Jesus. (See “Who Wrote the Book” in the chapter on James for more information.) Second, Matthew 13:55 records the names of the brothers of Jesus as James and Judas. Whereas the gospels record his name as Judas, English translations shorten it to Jude—probably for the same reason no one in the present day wants to name a child Judas, because of the association it has with Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus.

Like his older brother James, Jude did not place his faith in Jesus while the Lord was still alive. Only after the crucifixion and resurrection did the scales fall from Jude’s eyes and he become a follower of his half-brother, Jesus. First Corinthians 9:5 offers a tantalizing piece of information, noting that the Lord’s brothers and their wives took missionary journeys. From this scant portrait, we begin to picture Jude as a man who lived in skepticism for a time but eventually came to a powerful faith in Jesus. And as he traveled on behalf of the gospel—telling the story in city after city with his name Judas butting up against that of Judas Iscariot—he would stand as a living example of faithfulness, a stark contrast to the betrayer.

The book of Jude is notoriously difficult to date, primarily because the Bible and tradition reveal so little about the personal details of its author while the book itself refrains from naming any particular individuals or places. The one clue available to present-day readers is the striking similarity between the books of Jude and 2 Peter. Assuming Peter wrote his letter first (AD 64–66), Jude probably wrote his epistle sometime between AD 67 and 80.

Jude’s edgy brevity communicates the urgency of his notion that false teachers needed to be condemned and removed from the church. Few words meant that Jude would not waste space dancing around the issue. He saw within the church people and practices that were worthy of condemnation, including rejecting authority and seeking to please themselves. In response to these errors, Jude marshaled much biblical imagery to make clear what he thought of it all—anything from Cain killing his brother Abel to the punishment of the sinful people who populated Sodom and Gomorrah (Jude 1:7, 11).

Jude’s purpose in his letter was twofold: he wanted to expose the false teachers that had infiltrated the Christian community, and he wanted to encourage Christians to stand firm in the faith and fight for the truth. Jude recognized that false teachers often peddled their wares unnoticed by the faithful, so he worked to heighten the awareness of the believers by describing in vivid detail how terrible dissenters actually were. But more than simply raising awareness, Jude thought it important that believers stand against those working against Jesus Christ. Believers were to do this by remembering the teaching of the apostles, building each other up in the faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, and keeping themselves in the love of God (Jude 1:17, 20–21).

Fight for the truth! Stand up against error! The book of Jude is the very definition of punchy and pithy proclamations—with its short commands and statements popping off the page. But in our day and age, punchy has become rude or unacceptable. In many circles the forcefulness of Jude will not be tolerated, the crowds preferring a softer and gentler side of the Christian faith. But Jude reminds us that there is a time and a place for the aggressive protection of the truth from those who would seek to tear it down.

3 John Overview

3 John Overview

The apostle John identified himself in 3 John only as “the elder” (3 John 1:1), the same as he did in 2 John. At the writing of this, his final epistle, John was nearing the end of his life, a life that had changed dramatically some six decades before, when Jesus had called John and his brother James out from their fishing boat. The boys had left their livelihood and their father Zebedee to follow Jesus (Matthew 4:21–22). While James was the first of the twelve disciples to die for his faith, John outlived all the others. John referred to himself in his gospel as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 21:20), a title that highlights one of the great themes of all John’s biblical contributions, including 3 John—the love of God working itself out in the lives of human beings.

While we cannot pinpoint the date with certainty due to the lack of specific information in the letter, 3 John was probably written around AD 90 from the island of Patmos, where John was exiled at the time. John wrote his letter to Gaius, a leader of one or more churches in Asia Minor. The apostle had received a report of some difficulties caused by a man named Diotrephes, and John wrote to reinforce for Gaius the proper way to deal with the troubles.

While Gaius was dealing with certain troubles in his area, John wanted to direct him, not only in how to respond to the trials but also how to relate to those who proclaim the truth. John’s three epistles are largely concerned with the issue of fellowship—with God, with enemies of the gospel and, in the case of 3 John, with those who proclaim the truth. John wanted to ensure a warm welcome from the churches to those who traveled around preaching the gospel, offering them hospitality and a send-off “in a manner worthy of God” (3 John 1:6).

Troubles had come to the church in Asia. Diotrephes had taken control of one of the churches there and used his power to ban certain travelling missionaries from coming to the church at all. At one point, the church had seen something of a leadership quality in him and had placed him in charge, but now in the top spot, the power had gone to his head. He refused to welcome those traveling ministers of the gospel to preach and take rest with his church. And even worse, upon receiving an earlier correction from John, Diotrephes refused to listen (3 John 1:9).

This troubling situation prompted John to write to Gaius, commending the believers for holding fast to the truth and doing so with a loving attitude. These Christians strove to make the gospel a reality in their lives through the way they treated one another. And John, in response to this good report about the behavior of these “rank and file” Christians, encouraged them to continue to love and support those visiting believers who gave of themselves and ministered in the churches of Asia.

How do you show hospitality to other Christians, particularly those who serve you and others in your local church and at churches around the world? Showing hospitality to others—particularly strangers—requires a level of trust and acceptance that is not necessarily required of us in our everyday lives. It forces us to rely on a common bond in Jesus Christ, rather than a particular blood relationship or shared experience. It forces us out of our comfort zones and into a territory where we must place our trust in God.

John used words such as love and truth to describe this kind of living, and he used the negative example of Diotrephes to illustrate the dangers of going down a different path. We have a responsibility as Christians to live according to the truth we find in the life and ministry of Jesus, to care for and support those who serve God’s people. Our Lord was surrounded by people who took care of Him. Third John teaches us that we should do the same for those who carry on the teaching of Jesus in our own day.