Wednesday, May 28, 2014

How to revive my devotional life: A look at Psalm 63

This Psalm is set in the desert. That could be a physical desert or as verse 2 tends to indicate, it may be a spiritual desert.

What do you envision when you think about a desert? I see a man crawling on his knees screaming, “water!” This is a deadly desert. Is that a good picture of our devotional time? a deadly desert. It’s been days, weeks, or possibly even months since we’ve had a good long drink of water from God’s word. And we are dying spiritually.

Another picture is of a dry desert and someone there has water and is drinking but there’s not much life in the desert. The analogy here is that we are consistently disciplined in having our devotional time every day in God’s word but it is really just a discipline and nothing else. It’s kind of dry. It’s a routine. It’s just kind of a desert. If you find yourself in this kind of a desert, what do you do? Where do you turn? Go to Psalm 63.

The English word “devotions” comes from the English word “devotion”. We get so tied up in focusing on our devotions that we forget what we are supposed to be devoted to. Many of us are devoted to our devotions and it is a dry desert. The secret to reviving your devotional time is to stop focusing on the act of having the devotion and start focusing on Jesus.

What are you hopelessly devoted to?

  • Is it your work? You work the hours you need to in order to be successful.
  • Are you hopelessly devoted to your spouse? Your kids? You need to be devoted to your family.
  • Many are hopelessly devoted to their health. You exercise every day, you eat the right things, you are hopelessly devoted to being healthy.
  • Many are hopelessly devoted to the Pirates or the Steelers or to another sports team.

It is a known fact that we are capable of being hopelessly devoted to something.

The message of Psalm 63 is to become hopelessly devoted to Him, and if you do, your devotions will fall into place.

William Law wrote the book, “A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life”. In it he said, “Devotion is neither private nor public prayer, but a life given to God. He is the devout man, therefore, who considers and serves God in everything.”

You are devoted when you consider and serve God in everything.

Psalm 63 is a psalm of devotion. Here are eleven ideas about devotion from this Psalm.

1. I will submit to you.

“O God, You are my God.”   Ps 63:1

He doesn’t say you are his God, her God, their God, our God, or the God of our country. He says you are my God. What is required in order for a person to be able to make this statement is a personal relationship with God himself. As we submit to God and ask Him to forgive us of our sins, we form a personal relationship with Him.

A book came out a couple of years ago titled, “God is My Co-pilot”. Perhaps you’ve seen it or read it. The title drives me crazy because that is not what the Bible teaches us. The Bible does not teach us that one day we ask Jesus to save us and then we put him in the co-pilot seat and he is available to us whenever we need him. What the Bible teaches us is that we ask Jesus to forgive us and then he says, “Get out of the seat” and we say, “gladly”. And He sits down in the pilot seat and we move over to the co-pilot seat and He says, “No, I’ll take care of that, too.” So, we move back to the navigation seat and He says, “No, I’m going to navigate as well.” So we reply, “Where do you want me, Lord?” “Go back and let me carry you. I’ll fly this thing from now on.” And he flies our life as we submit to him. Now what a lot of us do, is as soon as we hit some turbulence, we run up into the cockpit and say, “God, let me take care of this and we push him out of the way.” Don’t you think turbulence is when you really want God in control? Many of the rest of us when we’ve been flying nice and smooth for a long time and it’s easy, we go up and say, “You know what God, I think I can do this. I don’t need you here anymore and we push him out of the way and we try to take control again.”

What a devoted life looks like is someone who is constantly allowing Jesus to run it; constantly submitting to him. What that means is when you read his word and he confronts you with some truth, you obey it, regardless of what you think about it. You submit to the word of God.

I will submit to you – this is the foundation of devotion. Without coming to this point the rest is useless.

2. I will earnestly seek you

“You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land where there is no water.”  Ps 63:1-2

Is that a great description of you after several weeks with no devotional time?

A dry and parched land where there is no water. David was struggling. He was dry. What he said is, I will earnestly seek you. Note the object of his seeking. It’s not water. It’s not deliverance from the desert. It is simply God. He gets all of those other things out of the way and he says God, I just want to know you deeper.

If a person is not hungry, one of two things is wrong. They are either dead or they are extremely ill.

The same is true spiritually. If there is absolutely no hunger for God, no thirsting after him, then one of two things is true. We are with dead spiritually. We’ve never really received Jesus Christ. We’ve never submitted to him. Or we are so used to pushing him away and not listening to him and neglecting him that we are physically ill, sick. As a result, after a while, you don’t even hunger for it any more. What David says here is I will earnestly seek you.

What does the word seek mean?

The word seek means a willing, intelligent, openness to God’s word and to putting it into practice.

2 Chronicles 31:21 is speaking about Hezekiah when it says, “he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered.” Many of you are interested in prospering in life, living a full and rich life. How do you do it - you seek God, and you work whole heartedly.

What does it mean to seek God?  It means when you are making a decision, you include him in the process. Whether it be a big one or a small one. It means when you are forming relationships, you usher him into the middle of them and ask him to do his work in that place. When you are struggling with bad attitudes, when you are trying to make your marriage better, when you are trying to figure out how to raise kids, you seek his guidance, you seek his power, you seek his wisdom, and you submit to him.

3. I will spend time with you

Your time with God is your lifeline. Satan will do everything he can to keep you from meeting with God because he knows that is where you grow and that is where your devotion to him is enriched.

“I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.”   Ps 63:3

David, when he spends time with God, has such a rich time that he says I have seen you, God. That is a personal experience.

“Because your love is better than life,”   Ps 63:4a

How does he know that kind of love?

How do you experience that kind of love? The way you experience that kind of love is by spending time with someone. Think about someone you are in love with. Don’t you long to spend time with him/her?  If someone were to come up and say how’s your relationship with your spouse, would you respond with, “I’ve got to spend at least 10 minutes with him/her every day. I’m trying to carve it out in the morning but it’s just hard. You know, life is full.”   What does that tell you about my relationship with my spouse? There’s a lack of devotion on my part. Right? When we fall in love with someone, we want to spend more time with them. And the more time you spend with Jesus the more you will fall in love with him.

David says, I have spent time in your sanctuary. One way to spend time with God is on Sunday morning with God’s people. Make worshipping on Sunday morning a priority in your life. Make Sunday morning your time to meet with God and his people – wherever you are – even if you are out of town.

4. I will sing your praises

“Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.”     Ps 63:3

Is it possible to truly love someone and never talk about them?

Is it possible to fall in love with someone and never utter their name to someone else?

David says, “I love you so much, Jesus, that I will tell people of you.”

Never talking about Jesus to someone else shows a lack of devotion. If you want to grow in devotion, start telling people about your Savior. Sing his praises.

5. Stick to it

“I will praise you as long as I live,”    Ps 63:4a

Does this look a little like a marriage vow – to death us do part?

We like to change this verse just a little.

We like to make it:

  • I will praise you as long as you continue to bless me.
  • I will praise you as long as there is money in the bank account.
  • I will praise you as long as my family is healthy.
  • I will praise you as long as life is good.
  • I will praise you as long as I keep getting these grades.

David – says – no – I’m not going to play that game.

I’m going to praise you regardless – till the day I die – that is called devotion.

6. I will serve you

Ever have you Mom or Dad say, “You haven’t lifted a hand to help me around this house all day.” What does that mean? It means you didn’t do anything. You sat around and did nothing. With that in mind, look at the rest of verse 4.

“I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.”   Ps 63:4

Lift up my hands in worship. That is Biblical but not where I’m going with this.

It also means to lift our hands in service. If Jesus were to evaluate you today, would he say one of two things? Would he say that you have lifted your hands in service or would he say you’ve been sitting around on your duff doing nothing. If we are devoted to him, we will serve him in his church, we will serve him outside his church; we will be involved in ministry for his glory.

7. I will be satisfied by you.

“I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.”  Ps 63:5

David is saying you are so satisfying that you are more satisfying than the most wonderful thing I can ever imagine eating here on earth.

CS Lewis – “Pleasure is God’s invention. Satan has never been able to manufacture a single genuine lasting pleasure.”

Many people have spent their lives looking for that lasting pleasure in Satan’s domain and have been terribly disappointed.

The point David is making is if you want to find satisfaction, come to Jesus.

Find your devotion in him; that is where true satisfaction will be found. Once again, we like to change this verse. Instead of saying my soul will be satisfied, we say I will be satisfied:

  • when I get that big raise
  • when I get in a home and out of an apartment
  • when you finally bring someone into my life for me to marry
  • when I finally get the job I’ve been after
  • when the kids are finally out of the house
  • when… when… when… then I’ll be satisfied.

No! David says, I am satisfied in you. I know where to find my satisfaction, it’s in my devotion to you.

8. I will meditate on you.

How do we meditate?

“On my bed I remember you;”  Ps 63:6a

How do you remember something? How do you remember someone’s name? By concentrating on it. If you don’t concentrate, you don’t remember. If you concentrate, you remember.

“I think of you through the watches of the night.”  Ps 63:6b

The word think here really means meditate. I think on you. I meditate on you.

“Through the watches of the night.”  Ps 63:6b

He encourages us to do this through the evening or the middle of the night. Maybe there is some truth to whatever you are meditating on when you go to sleep is what you wake up with in the morning. What do you wake up with on your mind?

“Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.”   Ps 63:7

If I am truly devoted to him, I will spend time focusing, remembering, thinking, and meditating on him.

9. I will cling to you

The Bible teaches us to follow Jesus. It also teaches us that when Jesus was arrested, Peter followed from afar. It is possible to follow Jesus from afar. And that is what many Christians do. They think – “I’m a follower of Jesus but I don’t want to get so close that he actually affects me though. I’ll be like Peter. I’ll lurk in the shadows. I’ll be there when it’s OK to be there but when it’s not, I’m out of here.” That’s not the picture David is painting here.

One who is living in devotion to Jesus, clings.

“I cling to you; your right hand upholds me.” Ps 63:8

There are two aspects to this clinging.

First part is I cling to you. The word clings means to be glued to.

Think of a soldier going into battle clinging to his shield. Holding it close. It’s a good idea for a soldier to keep his shield close. David is saying, a devoted person holds Jesus close.

It is the same word used in Genesis where it says a man will leave his father and mother and will cling to his wife. That’s a graphic picture, isn’t it? We are to cling to Jesus in the same way.

When Ruth and Naomi were deciding if they were going to split ways, Naomi said no, I am going to cling to you, your people will be my people, your God will be my God. I’m going to be with you forever. I’m clinging to you.

David wants us to understand that to be devoted means to cling and hang closely to Jesus through thick and thin.

The second aspect comes from “your right hand upholds me.”

This is the comforting part of this verse. We are hanging on to Jesus but he’s holding on to us and that’s the only reason we can continue to walk with him.

10. I will revel in your devotion to me

Remember that David is running from some enemies. Those enemies haven’t appeared in this Psalm yet. He talks about them in verses 9 -10.

“Those who want to kill me will be destroyed;
they will go down to the depths of the earth.
They will be given over to the sword
and become food for jackals.”  Ps 63:9-10

Jackals were the scavengers that came in after all the other beasts left. They were the dirtiest, grungiest scavengers. There was no worse fate for a Jew than to die, not be buried, and to be devoured by scavengers.

So David is showing us that no matter how devoted we are to God, he is completely devoted to us.

He is so devoted to me that he will destroy anyone who gets in my way.

David is saying this in the midst of a spiritual desert. He’s saying this after going weeks without a devotional time.

What do we normally say after experiencing a dry stretch like that? Perhaps –

  • God’s mad at me.
  • God’s angry.
  • God has turned his back on me.
  • God doesn’t want to meet with me. I’m not even going to waste my time.

And so we fall deeper and deeper into this desert of dryness. When the truth is, God is completely and fully devoted to you regardless of how many devotional times you’ve had in the last month or year. That fact is insignificant to him. He is devoted to you. We are to revel in that devotion.

11. I will anticipate our future together.

“But the king will rejoice in God;
all who swear by God will glory in him,
while the mouths of liars will be silenced.”  Ps 63:11

Does this verse make you think about final judgment?

It says those who swear by God’s name – claim Jesus as their Savior – we will spend eternity praising him.

The end of the book of Revelation tells us about how we will be singing praises to the Lamb.

But - those who have not submitted to Jesus Christ, their voices will be silenced.

David is focused on the fact that he will be praising God eternally and he looks forward to that future with him.

If you are in a desert right now, think about starting every morning for the next couple of weeks start by reading through Psalm 63 and declaring your devotion to the Lord. Then, when you get a chance, each day open the word of God and allow him to speak to you. This total thing will take maybe 10 – 15 minutes. Carve it out of your day. Make it a priority. You will start to see the fruit of this effort within just a couple of weeks.

There’s a story about D.L. Moody that goes like this:

“A committee of ministers in a certain city was discussing the possibility of having D. L. Moody to serve as the evangelist during a city-wide evangelistic campaign.

Finally, one young minister who did not want to invite Moody stood up and said: “Why Moody? Does he have a monopoly of the Holy Spirit?”

There was silence. Then an old, godly minister spoke up: “No, he does not have a monopoly of the Holy Spirit; but the Holy Spirit has a monopoly of D.L. Moody.”

What an amazing thing to have said of you!

Does the Holy Spirit have a monopoly on you?

Is he the pilot?

Is he running the show?

Are you hopelessly devoted to him?


Ideas adapted from – “When I am Devotionally Challenged” by Pete Briscoe

Friday, May 16, 2014

Struggling but All In

Life seems to be a struggle these days.  I trust Jesus and have completely given my life to Him and yet I am struggling.  Daily life is a battle.  Satan knows my weak areas and he is on the attack.  He knows how to push my buttons. 

When we are living for God, Satan wants to destroy us.  Or, at the very least, wants to destroy our witness.  He will do whatever it takes to stop us, distract us, or bring us down. 

I think Paul said it best when the Holy Spirit had him write these words:

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” 
(Ephesians 6:12)

We are at war, a spiritual war.  It is very real. If we, as a followers of Jesus Christ, make any effort to actually live for Him, Satan will notice. We have picked up our sword against the evil one, and he is ready and waiting to accept our challenge. Be prepared. Whether he attacks via our sinful nature or through other means, he will attack. Therefore, we need to put on the whole armor of God.

13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,
15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

(Ephesians 6:13-18)

Let me be completely honest for a few minutes….

Living the Christian life is messy.
It is hard.
Some days it is a real fight.

But God knows all about it and all about me.
He understands me completely – He created me.
Understanding that gives me peace and rest.

God doesn’t push me away when I sin, He longs for me to confess and get right with Him.
He picks me up and reminds me that He loves me.
He reminds me of His grace.
He reminds me that it is only in His strength that I can get through each day.
Only in His strength can I live each day for Him.

I don’t understand all of this – and the more I try, the more I see that I don’t understand it. 
He’s the infinite wise God and His ways are so above my ways that my tiny finite brain just doesn’t get it all.
That’s OK – I’m all in for Jesus anyway.
I don’t need to understand everything, I just need to trust.

It’s not easy to confess when I’m struggling.
It’s often mumbled through tears.
It’s humbling… but that’s where He wants me – completely trusting Him.

Truth is – this life is hard with Jesus -  how in the world would I survive without Him.
Keep walking it, keep talking it, keep trusting Jesus…

There’s no other option for me….. I’m all in.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Waste, Spend, or Invest

As I approach another birthday, I am thinking more and more about the idea of whether I am wasting my life, spending my life, or investing my life.

Let’s start with some scripture and then I’ll explain what I mean. 

Ephesians 5:15-17   “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”

Deuteronomy 10:12   “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul”

The way I see it, things people waste their lives on are things that are destructive. Perhaps that means drugs or alcohol.  They definitely fit the category.  But what about “unclean” movies or TV?  Shows that definitely don’t build you up.  What about what you do on the internet?  The computer can be used for good or evil.  I use it every day in ways that encourage my faith but I know others who get into all kinds of “evil” on the computer.  As I think about things, the category of wasting my life doesn’t really fit me.  I don’t think I am in here …

There are many things that we do that aren’t bad in themselves but they use our time.  I would call these things that we spend our lives on.  It could be an activity, a club, a hobby,a job,etc.  Things that aren’t bad in themselves but having spent my time on them accomplishes nothing of eternal significance.  Some of these things we have to continue to do.  I have to work.  Why – I have to pay my bills.  I have to clean my house, do the laundry, and cook food for my family.  These are not bad things.  They are obligations.  What you need to watch is that you don’t just “spend” your whole life on these things.  Some “good” things may have to go if you want to have room for God in your life.  If you want to have time to read the Word, pray, be involved in a small group or Bible study, go on a mission trip, teach Bible School, attend church, talk to your friends and neighbors about Christ, etc…. then some other “good” things may have to be eliminated from your schedule.  This is the category that I need to really watch with my life.  I get busy with “stuff” and it isn’t bad stuff but it isn’t really accomplishing anything either.

I’m about to turn 53.  Yes – I gave my age out on the internet.  It’s OK – I don’t care.  I’ve received 365 days a year for the last 53 years – or I have had about 19,366 days so far in my life.  How have I spent those?  Have I been purposeful with how I’ve used what God has given me?  I don’t need another resolution – like we make at New Years.  Those don’t seem to work for me.  I need discipline.  I need priorities. 

I desire to invest my life.  That means using it to participate in things that have eternal results.  People are the only things that last forever.  Nothing else lasts.  You can’t take anything to heaven with you except others.  The only way you take others with you is to make sure they know Jesus.  And so that means pouring my life into other people. 

Romans 12:1 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”

2 Corinthians 5:15 “And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”

Don’t squander your life.  Invest it.  As I now look at my life and know that the Lord could take me home any time, (I’m not being morbid, just facing the facts that no one is promised tomorrow.) I want to be about my Father’s business.  I want to be investing my life in the lives of others.  I want to be building the kingdom. 

What does that look like?  I still have to work a job but that job doesn’t have to consume me.  Also, while I am at work, I am seeking to impact the people I work with.  How do you do that?  

I talk about my faith – it’s not a secret that I am a Christian.  Then since it isn’t a secret, I’d better also live it.  I have Micah 6:8 posted on my bulletin board - “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  If you talk about your faith but don’t live it out in action, no one will take you seriously and no one will be interested in your “God” for themselves.

I take care of my family.  I believe it honors God when I make sure my family’s needs are met.  My husband and my daughter are a priority in my life.  However, once their needs are taken care of (not every want), I look for ways to invest in others.

I am active in our church.  I sing in the choir, teach Sunday School, sing with the worship team, help with Bible School, etc.  Our church choir visits a nursing home every other month.  I help with things like the Christmas play, Christmas caroling, fixing food for people in need, etc.  I went on a mission trip last summer and am anticipating doing the same this summer.  Taking one of my weeks of vacation ( I get 4) and spending it serving others.  It is not only beneficial to others but it changes me.  It reminds me how blessed I am and how good God is. 

Do these works earn my salvation?  NO!  I am saved by faith in Christ. It’s by God’s grace.  The things I do are as a result of that salvation.  I want others to know Jesus the way I do.  I want my life to count for something of eternal value.

Ephesians 2:8-10  “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—  not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

“Only one life,’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.” 
~ C.T. Studd

I am seeking the Lord today for new and exciting ways to invest my life.  What about you?

Friday, May 2, 2014

Music, Joy, and Hope

It’s been a hard spring for me.  You know - personal life stuff.  We all experience times like these in our lives.  

One of the things that I’ve prayed about was that God would allow me to experience joy in my life again. I had been praying Psalm 51:12, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation.” 

Remember what it was like when you first trusted Christ and how excited you were about your faith.  That’s what I want back.  That sheer joy in knowing Jesus and passionately loving Him above anything else.

As I was leaving church last night following a powerful worship and prayer time, someone said something to me about enjoying the music. I had had the privilege of helping lead worship and so I simply replied something like I love to sing and I had fun.  And while that was true, God impressed on my heart that wasn’t all there was to it.  It wasn’t fun I had experienced, it was joy. He gently reminded me that worship music has always brought me joy because it ushers me into the presence of God and in His presence is fullness of joy. (Psalm 16:11)

I had a conversation with our pastor yesterday morning about an issue and he referred to Romans 12.  As I was scrambling to remember what all was in Romans 12, all I could remember was that’s the chapter about being a living sacrifice and that’s the chapter about being transformed by the renewing of my mind but I was at a loss to remember what the rest of the chapter was about. (The older I get the worse my memory gets!) 

Later on in the day, I found time to pull out my Bible and read Romans 12.  In fact, I read it through multiple times and the part that kept speaking to me was probably not the part he had referred to… (sorry Dan)  But verse 12 kept sticking out to me - “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”  I went through the rest of the day thinking – be joyful in hope, be joyful in hope, be joyful in hope …..

I was then reminded of some verses that I had memorized from Romans 5 – “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.”   And Romans 15:13 which says “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

So, I trust in God and He gives me joy, peace and hope. What a deal!

Trust leads to hope …. What is that hope about?  

2 Timothy 1:12 “for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.”

Wow – what a day! I went to bed last night confident in my Savior’s love, confident that my future is secure in Him, and full of joy, peace, and hope.