In your steadfast love give me life, that I may keep the testimonies of your mouth. Psalm 119:88
In our pursuit of personal revival as revealed in Psalm 119, we discover the keeping of “the testimonies of your mouth” requires the loving revival action of God.
That I may keep the testimonies of your mouth.
- There is personal responsibility and delight that flows from the longing of David’s soul. “That I.”
- The corporate or national we is important, but David’s priority is upon himself.
- Apparent is an intimacy between “your steadfast love” and “that I may keep.”
- “Keep” seems a more relational term than “obey.”
- David’s interest is in keeping the particulars from “God’s mouth.”
- Hearing the voice of God, as seen in the written the code of law, is a bit more intimate than “may I obey your law.”
- The emphasis upon God’s mouth” implies a close ear to hear. Maybe a heart to heart idea.
- This is a prequel to Jesus’ words in Matthew 4:4, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
- It seems this wording is more than “may I obey what you once said,” but “may I hear and respond appropriately to what you are currently saying.”
For the keeping of the testimonies from God’s mouth to occur, the Psalmist recognizes he needs an abiding personal revival.
- Quicken me.
- Cause me to live.
- God’s action is requested for such a noble “Keeping of the testimonies from his mouth.”
Why would God even consider doing this reviving?
The Psalmist appeals to God’s great, enduring mercy and grace wrapped up “In your steadfast love.”
“Respond to me according to Who you are,” the Psalmist requests.
There are more ways than one can estimate that hinder us from “Keeping the testimonies of God’s mouth.”
Fear of failure and fear of others send us to a direct awareness of our need of God’s unfailing love.
Second Sunday of Advent 2018
In advent we prepare ourselves for the arrival of Jesus, past, present and future.
Today we reflect upon Jesus’ arrival in yesterday’s Bethlehem, embrace His arrival in our experience today and prepare for His arrival in our tomorrow.
God, in His Son Jesus, has made Himself known, is making Himself known and will make Himself known.
God making Himself known in the birth of Jesus was glorious.
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
God making Himself known in daily life is powerful too.
Consider the miracle of the axe head floating. 2 Kings 6:1-7
Now the sons of the prophets said to Elisha, “See, the place where we dwell under your charge is too small for us. 2 Let us go to the Jordan and each of us get there a log, and let us make a place for us to dwell there.” And he answered, “Go.” 3 Then one of them said, “Be pleased to go with your servants.” And he answered, “I will go.” 4 So he went with them. And when they came to the Jordan, they cut down trees. 5 But as one was felling a log, his axe head fell into the water, and he cried out, “Alas, my master! It was borrowed.” 6 Then the man of God said, “Where did it fall?” When he showed him the place, he cut off a stick and threw it in there and made the iron float. 7 And he said, “Take it up.” So he reached out his hand and took it.
God loves to make Himself known in powerful ways in the material things of our day to day lives.
- In miraculous provision.
- Food (manna and Quail) in the desert for the people of Israel. Exodus 16
- Miracle catch of fish. John 21
- Multiplying fish and loaves.
- John 6:1-15 – Feeding 5,000 with five loaves and 2 fish (12 baskets of overflow)
- Mark 8:1-13 – Feeding of the 4,000 with seven loaves and a few fish (Seven baskets of overflow)
- He makes Himself known by continuing the wedding feast by turning the water into wine, saving the parents from embarrassment and providing for the joy of the wedding guests
- He makes Himself known to the disciples by miraculously providing money to pay taxes. Matthew 17:27
- He makes Himself known by healing paralysis, leprosy, withered hands, calming storms and raising those who have died.
God loves to make Himself known in our tomorrows too and we are in search of ways to prepare ourselves for God’s Self-revelation.
Can I prepare today for a greater Self-revelation of Jesus tomorrow?
Today’s Second Sunday of Advent text is Malachi 3:1-4
“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord. 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.
From our text we learn things we can do to prepare the way for God’s Self-revelation.
- The preparer is sent by God. 1 “Lord, send me to prepare my heart for your arrival.”
- The preparer prepares the way for the Lord. 1 “Lord, may I prepare my heart for the way of the Lord rather than for my personal preferences.”
- When the Lord arrives in the prepared place, it can be something to be endured as being in a refiner’s fire and being scrubbed with fuller’s soap. 2. “Lord, your Self-revelation is worth everything to me. Please give me grace to endure the fire and scrubbing necessary to prepare me for your revelation.”
- In the process I am becoming like refined and purified silver and gold. ‘Lord, I celebrate the results you are producing in me and I come as a purified offering of righteousness to you.”
- Preparing the way of the Lord followed by His arrival is making me pleasing to Him.
Thank God for His Self-revelation through:
- The first Christmas.
- The material things in our lives.
- Preparing my heart for His arrival tomorrow.
You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.
Knowing the importance of assisting South Central Alaskan children to resiliently navigate the recent 7.0 earthquake and the multiple hundreds of aftershocks, I have invited Sandra Robinson, Ph.D., to make several presentations to all interested parents, teachers, educators, volunteers, and church leaders.
Caring for our children, especially those with developmental disabilities, is a highly urgent matter. Due to the urgent need we are not as perfectly organized as we would like to be, but we are ready for three sessions of timely, practical and encouraging training and interaction with Dr. Robinson. Her introduction presented below is super impressive and comforting.
Dr. Robinson will make her presentation three times on Saturday, December 8 and Sunday evening December 9, 2018.
Saturday, December 8 (No childcare)
- Registration – 12:30 PM
- First Opportunity – 1:00-4:00 PM
- Second Opportunity -5:30-8:30 PM
Sunday, December 9 (Childcare provided)
- Registration – 5:30 PM
- Third Opportunity- 6:00-9:00 PM
Dr. Sandy Robinson has over 34 years of experience in public education. She has taught grades 5-12. She has also been a site administrator and the Director of Special Education in two different districts.
Dr. Sandy has taught teacher preparation courses at California State University, Riverside. She has trained educators, administrators, and parents in the areas of positive behavior techniques, teaching and learning strategies, inclusion techniques, crisis intervention, and Special Education Law. She is an Inclusion Specialist. She brings her extensive experience in the field of special education to faith communities.
Dr. Sandy has been the Regional Director of Champions Club, an international ministry for students and adults with special needs and their families. She is currently the Training Coordinator and Inclusion Specialist for Champions Clubs. In 2012, with the support of Pastor Craig Johnson and Covina Assembly of God Church, she developed and launched the first Champions Club outside of Lakewood Church.
In 2014, Dr. Sandy and Mr. Craig Johnson wrote the first full scale curriculum for Champions (individuals with special needs). The curriculum encourages families to come to know God, love Him, and to share His love with others. In 2017, they released a family devotional that provides families access to the curriculum. It is her desire to assist churches, of all denominations, to successfully include exceptional individuals and their families in all aspects of church life.
She has been married to her best friend for 29 years. God has blessed them with two amazing daughters who love and serve God, and two pugs named Littleman and Charlie.
With our strong longing for God, we are studying personal revival as seen in Psalm 119.
Psalm 119 features at least eight prayers of deep longing for revival.
Today’s text is perfectly timed by the Lord for our post-earthquake reality.
Vs. 50 This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.
• The difficulty is affliction.
• The grace is comfort and life.
• The source is God’s promise.
An affliction is a “cause of persistent pain or distress.” https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/affliction
• The author does not minimalize the pain or distress.
• Nor does he deny pain and distress.
Notice Abraham’s total resistance to denial. Romans 4:19-21
19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.
The Psalmist makes it clear, “in my affliction.”
Yet David has a far greater experience to unfold for his readers: “This is my comfort.”
David’s personal experience was “consolation in time of trouble or worry.”
Yes, in David’s affliction he experienced God’s comfort and life through God’s promises.
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that her warfare[a] is ended,
that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the LORD’s hand
double for all her sins.
3 A voice cries:[b]
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
5 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
The Word of God Stands Forever
6 A voice says, “Cry!”
And I said,[c] “What shall I cry?”
All flesh is grass,
and all its beauty[d] is like the flower of the field.
7 The grass withers, the flower fades
when the breath of the LORD blows on it;
surely the people are grass.
8 The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever.
The Greatness of God
9 Go on up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good news;[e]
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good news;[f]
lift it up, fear not;
say to the cities of Judah,
“Behold your God!”
10 Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
behold, his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
11 He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young.
12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand
and marked off the heavens with a span,
enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure
and weighed the mountains in scales
and the hills in a balance?
13 Who has measured[g] the Spirit of the LORD,
or what man shows him his counsel?
14 Whom did he consult,
and who made him understand?
Who taught him the path of justice,
and taught him knowledge,
and showed him the way of understanding?
15 Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket,
and are accounted as the dust on the scales;
behold, he takes up the coastlands like fine dust.
16 Lebanon would not suffice for fuel,
nor are its beasts enough for a burnt offering.
17 All the nations are as nothing before him,
they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness.
18 To whom then will you liken God,
or what likeness compare with him?
19 An idol! A craftsman casts it,
and a goldsmith overlays it with gold
and casts for it silver chains.
20 He who is too impoverished for an offering
chooses wood[h] that will not rot;
he seeks out a skillful craftsman
to set up an idol that will not move.
21 Do you not know? Do you not hear?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
22 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
and spreads them like a tent to dwell in;
23 who brings princes to nothing,
and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.
24 Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,
scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,
when he blows on them, and they wither,
and the tempest carries them off like stubble.
25 To whom then will you compare me,
that I should be like him? says the Holy One.
26 Lift up your eyes on high and see:
who created these?
He who brings out their host by number,
calling them all by name;
by the greatness of his might
and because he is strong in power,
not one is missing.
27 Why do you say, O Jacob,
and speak, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the LORD,
and my right is disregarded by my God”?
28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
30 Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
31 but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.
God’s promise is the source of HUGE comfort.
God is tender with His people.
War is ended.
Iniquity is pardoned.
The wilderness is to be prepared for the Lord. The LORD is entering the wilderness.
Build a straight highway – God is coming to town!
Every obstacle to smooth travel will be removed.
God’s glory will be revealed.
All flesh shall see it together.
FOR THE MOUTH OF THE LORD HAS SPOKEN.
So much in creation and life is temporary.
BUT THE WORD OF OUR GOD WLL STAND FOREVER!
Get on every communication platform and declare with strength, “The might and power of God.”
He will mightily tend his flock like a shepherd.
Haven’t you heard? God isn’t confined to creation as a mere created being.
He sits above creation.
God is so amazing there is nothing to compare with Him.
Haven’t you heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary. What God understands is unsearchable.
He gives POWER to the faint and to the weak He increases strength.
All humans get weary, faint and can fall exhausted.
The aftershocks of a major earthquake seem to be more intense within the human soul than they are in the earth beneath.
Nothing opens the consciousness to our total powerlessness as the earth uncontrollably moving like ocean waves for what seems like an eternity.
One helpful thing from such huge seismic movement is the shocking core awareness of personal powerlessness.
Why is this helpful? Because it points us, no, it drives us to the only Reality in the universe who never did, doesn’t now and never will have even a nanosecond of powerlessness.
We meet this non-powerlessness Person in Revelations 1:8, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
I’m no expert in post-earthquake recovery but I do have a couple of ideas I think may be helpful.
- Feel comfortable to say and feel the words, “I felt so powerless.” Or, “It was scary because there was nothing I could do.”
- Place high priority upon spending time with people who love you.
- Rest in remembering that NOTHING shakes the Unshakeable, Unmovable, Unwavering Almighty God.
- Get back into your normal life patterns (if they are healthy) and stay active, engaged and productive.
An abiding relationship with the Almighty God, through His Son Jesus, sends the soul’s aftershocks, not into our sense of personal well-being, but into the never powerless, always Almighty God.
First Sunday of Advent 2018.
Christmas begins on December 25, when we celebrate the birth of our Lord. In Advent we assume the prophesied ministry of John the Baptist.
- A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Isaiah 40:3
- In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea,2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’” Matthew 3:1-3
Every year Christians reflect upon what “preparations” they should make for the arrival of Jesus on December 25th.
The word advent comes to us from Greek to Latin to English. It carries the meaning of arrival and arriving.
In advent we prepare ourselves for the arrival of Jesus, past, present and future.
- Jesus physically arrived about 2024 years ago.
- 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. Luke 2:6-7
- Jesus arrives in our lives in various ways today.
- And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20
- Jesus will return to earth with a glorious and grand “Second Coming of Jesus.”
- For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.
‘Awaken! Remember that God comes! Not yesterday, not tomorrow, but today, now! The one true God, “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”, is not a God who is there in Heaven, unconcerned with us and our history, but he is the-God-who-comes.’ Pope Benedict XVI, Celebration of First Vespers of Advent, Vatican Basilica, December 2006
Our Advent celebration is founded in the reality that “The Maker has Made Himself Known.”
The Maker made Himself known to John the Apostle through personal encounter, friendship and demonstration.
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. John 1:14-18
The Maker made Himself known to the Apostle Paul by revelation.
For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles—2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Ephesians 3:1-6
God loves to make Himself known:
- In material things, natural provision and finances.
- In physical strength, health and healing.
- In peace, joy and love.
- In relationships.
- In removing sin, guilt and condemnation and replacing with righteousness and a pure conscience.
A most interesting story of “preparing the way of the Lord” is found in Judges 7:2-7
2 The Lord said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’ 3 Now therefore proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home and hurry away from Mount Gilead.’” Then 22,000 of the people returned, and 10,000 remained.
4 And the Lord said to Gideon, “The people are still too many. Take them down to the water, and I will test them for you there, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ shall go with you, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ shall not go.” 5 So he brought the people down to the water. And the Lord said to Gideon, “Every one who laps the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, you shall set by himself. Likewise, every one who kneels down to drink.” 6 And the number of those who lapped, putting their hands to their mouths, was 300 men, but all the rest of the people knelt down to drink water.7 And the Lord said to Gideon, “With the 300 men who lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hand, and let all the others go every man to his home.”
Gideon and Midian by the Numbers
- 32,000 warriors at the beginning
- 22,00 warriors sent home due to fearfulness and trembling.
- Of the 10,000 warriors remaining, 9,700 are sent back to their homes.
- God made Himself known to all the world in and through 300 warriors.
Is there something in your life that God is reducing to prepare the way of the Lord?
Welcome God’s work in you because He has promised to make Himself known to you.
I (Kent) felt the Lord say to me, “I will make myself known and I will leave no doubt.”
- I left no doubt to Abraham on the Mountains of Moriah.
- I left no doubt at the Red Sea.
- I left no doubt to Daniel in the lion’s den.
- I left no doubt to the three Hebrew boys in the fiery furnace.
- I left no doubt to Mary, Martha and Lazarus at Lazarus’ tomb.
- I left no doubt following the death of Jesus on the cross.
If you reduce with God, He will make Himself known and leave no doubt!
When you seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13
Insight into God’s Self-revelation from the Ark of the Covenant.
4 having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. Hebrews 9:4
We are pursuing the ways of God in matters related to Him making Himself Known.
In a previous message we investigated the role personal longing in God’s self-revelation.
“You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13
God makes Himself known to people with core level longing for God.
It is fair to say the Ark of the Covenant is the most holy item to ever grace the earth. The Ark of the Covenant is the centerpiece of God’s self-revelation.
From the perspective of the Ark of the Covenant, to whom does God make Himself known?
The items in the Ark of the Covenant are hugely instructive on the ways God determines to self-reveal. There are three things inside the Ark of the Covenant.
- The tablets of the Ten Commandments.
- An omer of manna.
- Aaron’s staff.
First, God makes Himself known in relationship to His revealed will.
Second, God makes Himself known upon and through His provision.
Third, God makes Himself known upon and through His selected, appointed and anointed leadership.
However, we learn the antithesis is equally important in God’s decisions to self-reveal.
Above the Ark of the Covenant or the Ark’s lid and cover, is the Mercy Seat. The High Priest applied an animal’s blood to the mercy seat as a sacrifice covering the sins of Israel.
What are the three most important sins to be covered?
First, as Moses returned down the mountain with the Law (revealed will of God), he found the people in great violation and in anger, he broke the two tablets.
We learn that God’s self-revelation is not given upon violation of His revealed will. The broken law must be covered with a mercy seat and the blood of the sacrifice. Then God is willing to manifest His glory.
Second, God provided for Israel’s food needs by the giving of manna. The giving of manna is one of the most remarkable provisions of God in history. However, the people began to complain and begrudge God’s provision.
We learn that God’s self-revelation is not given upon grumbling, complaining and begrudging people. Grumbling, complaining and begrudging against God must be covered by the blood of the sacrifice placed upon the seat of God’s mercy.
Third, God makes Himself known through His selected, appointed and anointed leadership. Rebelling against, resisting and undervaluing God’s selected, appointed and anointed leadership must be placed under God’s Mercy Seat and covered by the blood of the sacrifice.
We are pursuing, with all our mind and might, soul and heart, the Person whom we Love.
The One whose loving kindness is better than life. He who animates the universe. Brightens the Alaskan skies with the northern lights. Who says, “Let there be” and be it is.
He who shalom-ed a troubled teenage Mary’s heart upon her selection to be the mother of our Lord and entrusted her cross broken heart to John, “Woman, behold thy son.” Or is it He entrusted His best friend into the care of the world’s greatest mother?
We’ve got to experience the One who sent the cloven tongues of fire from Mt. Sinai into Pentecost’s upper room and filled everyone present with the Spirit of the Living God.
Not another day without His strong hand upon our shoulder. Not an hour without His living Word surging through our veins. Not a minute absent His approval. Not a second without His aromatic anointing.
We pursue His fresh fire. His wind of life. His energetic oil.
We await His hovering, brooding, indwelling, moving, empowering Spirit.
Is it renewal? Restoration? Awakening? Outpouring? Revival?
Psalm 119 features at least eight prayers of deep longing for revival.
Vs. 25 My soul clings to the dust. Revive me according to your word.
Vs. 37 Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.
Vs. 40 Behold, I long for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life!
Vs. 50 This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.
Vs. 88 In your steadfast love give me life, that I may keep the testimonies of your mouth.
Vs. 93 I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life.
Vs. 107 I am severely afflicted; give me life, O Lord, according to your word!
Vs. 149 Hear my voice according to your steadfast love; O Lord, according to your justice give me life.
Today we take up the Psalmist’s third outcry for revival. Psalm 119:40
“Behold, I long for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life!”
This awakening of revival for which we pray is related to our deepest longings. “Behold, I long for your precepts.”
For some people, the identifiable deep longing is for happiness. David K. Naugle, in his book Reordered Love, Reordered Lives: Learning the Deep Meaning of Happiness states:
Roman philosopher Seneca (c. 5 B.C.-A. D. 65) reminded us: There is not anything in this world, perhaps, that is more talked of, and less understood, than the business of a happy life. It is every person’s wish and design; and yet not one of a thousand … knows wherein that happiness consists. We live, however, in a blind and eager pursuit of it; and the more haste we make in a wrong way, the further we are from our journey’s end.
Naugle calls this misguided longing for happiness as “the everlasting ideal.”
We are in search of the everlasting ideal in education, finances, work, technology, marriage, parenting, friendship, travel, adventure, health, entertainment, recreation, religion, food, drink, sex, and self. Not only is this pursuit exhausting; it also trivializes a once-noble concept, as we have moved from a concern with being and doing good to a fixation on feeling good.
Notice the author points to a movement from “being and doing good to a fixation on feeling good.”
Feelings are part of the image of God imparted to human beings at creation. It is because God has emotions that we have emotions. Feelings are a gift from God.
God’s feelings are on full display in Hosea 11:8.
How can I give you up, O Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, O Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I treat you like Zeboiim?
My heart recoils within me;
my compassion grows warm and tender.
Jesus feels our feelings.
15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
To sympathize is to “have a fellow feeling with.” https://biblehub.com/greek/4834.htm
We could restate this verse as follows: For we have Jesus, our Great High Priest, who has fellow feelings with our weaknesses. In every respect He has been tempted as we are yet is without sin.
When God created humans in His image He included the ability and desirability of feelings.
Longing for joy, peace, love and happiness can be pleasing to the Lord.
However, these longings are not truly the deepest human longing.
Every human being has always and will always discover their deepest longing is for God alone.
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
for my hope is from him.
6 He only is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
7 On God rests my salvation and my glory;
my mighty rock, my refuge is God.
8 Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
Hear the same deepest longing from Psalm 42:1-2
As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
See Jesus’ promised blessing upon those who embrace their deepest longings for God in Matthew 5.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied.
Psalm 119:40, reveals that revival is connected to our deepest longing for God as revealed in His precepts (guidance).
Consider God’s faithfulness to Isaac because of Abraham’s exceptional longing for obedience to God.
26 Now there was a famine in the land, besides the former famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went to Gerar to Abimelech king of the Philistines. 2 And the Lord appeared to him and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; dwell in the land of which I shall tell you. 3 Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father. 4 I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, 5 because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.”
Remember this is several hundred years PRIOR to God giving the written and oral Law to Moses.
Abraham’s knowledge of God’s charge, commandments, statutes and laws was 100% by hearing God’s voice.
“This variety of expression seems to be designed to show the universality and exactness of Abraham’s obedience, that he readily complied with every intimation of the divine will.”
Abraham’s deepest longing for God fueled his obedience to every hint of God’s will.
As we pursue our deepest longing for God, Abraham’s example is a valuable model.
- Longing for God, we pre-commit to obey every hint of God’s will.
- Longing for God, we expect to hear His voice, both oral and written.
- Longing for God, we expect the next generation of our family members to walk in God’s promises to us.
- Longing for God, we expect Holy Spirit revival.
“You keep telling me what has been lost, and I keep telling you something remains.” John Swinton, “Dementia: Living in the Memories of God.
Two similar people live virtually the same life
- Rhonda – Realizing relationship with God is given by His grace through faith in Jesus, Rhonda placed her full trust in Him for salvation and eternal life. In this process, God gave to Rhonda His righteousness. Let’s call her “Righteous Rhonda.”
- Vince (Fictional) – Having heard of the Good News of relationship with God given by His grace through faith in Jesus, Vince wasn’t sure. The surrender your life to the leadership of God seemed too much to ask. “Deny yourself and take up your cross and follow Jesus” was out for sure. “I’m not giving my life to anyone, especially an invisible God.” He said. Let’s call him “Unconvinced Vince.”
Righteous Rhonda and Unconvinced Vince both experience early onset dementia and die at fifty-one years of age.
The disease process was the same for both Vince and Rhonda. In some ways, it seems they have had the exact same experience. But have they?
Is there any real advantage to being Christian in life?
Yes, there are many spectacular advantages to living life in the Gospel of Christ.
There is the significant advantage of personally belonging to God.
When I no longer know who I am, I rest in whose I am.
Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Psalm 100:3
There is the significant advantage of personally resting in memory.
- When I no longer remember anything, I rest in knowing God remembers me.
- J. I. Packer writes about the comfort we have in being known by God:
“What matters supremely, therefore, is not, in the last analysis, the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies it — the fact that he knows me. I am graven on the palms of his hands (Isaiah 49:16). I am never out of his mind. All my knowledge of him depends on his sustained initiative in knowing me. I know him because he first knew me, and continues to know me. He knows me as a friend, one who loves me; and there is no moment when his eye is off me, or his attention distracted from me, and no moment, therefore, when his care falters.”
- “But he knows the way I take; when he hath tried me I shall come out as pure gold.” Job 23:10
There is the significant advantage of personally resting in God’s grace.
- When I no longer can “do anything,” I rest in knowing God is doing everything for me and in me.
- “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
There is the significant advantage of Presence.
- When folks wonder if I am still present, I rest in knowing God is ever present with me.
- “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
There is the significant advantage of personal certainty.
- When I am no longer certain about myself, my certainty about God remains the same.
- “But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me.” 2 Timothy 1:12
There is the significant advantage of guaranteed eternal life in relationship with God, reunited with believing family and friends for time without end.
- “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”” John 11:25, 26
- Jesus also said, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
Today, we celebrate the work of God’s Good News for Rhonda.
She has truly “fought a good fight, finished the race, and henceforth a crown of righteousness” is hers.
Rhonda is absent in body and present with the Lord.
We worship and celebrate God who has made this grace of eternal life available to us through faith in His Son.
If we were at a service today for our fictional Unconvinced Vince, our sorrow would be immeasurable.
But “Glory to God” we are celebrating Righteous Rhonda’s abundant, boisterous, energetic, faith-based life.
Today, my prayer is that, unlike Unconvinced Vince, you will join Righteous Rhonda.
Without a doubt, I am fully convinced.
We are sitting on the Mount of Beatitudes to learn from Jesus.
He has revealed that He didn’t come to abolish the Law and the prophets, but to fulfill them.
Because of this, Paul would later explain how the Law was always intended, like a tutor and guardian, to lead people to Jesus. Jesus now is our Tutor and Guardian.
24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Galatians 3:24
25 For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. 1 Peter 2:25
The Greatest Commandment, showing the desire of God for all humanity, was, is and will be exactly the same, yesterday, today and forever.
God’s deepest desire for those in the Old Testament covenant is found in Deuteronomy 6:4-5.
4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
God’s deepest desire for those in the New Testament covenant is found in Matthew 22:37-38.
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment.
Why is it that we, like the scribes and Pharisees, so quickly…
- Love the Law and forget the Law-giver?
- Love the Christian religion and forget the Christ?
- Love the creation (ourselves) and forget the Creator?
It might be good for us to ask, “Is there a recovering scribe and Pharisee in me today?”
Rather than asking, “Who must I be to align with the Law-giver?” the religious and cultural leaders of Jesus’ day simply asked, “What must I do to align with the Law?”
In God’s revelation of Himself we learn:
- Who always precedes what.
- Be always precedes do.
Jesus (Matthew 5:21-48) talks the disciples through six “what and do” emphasis of the scribes and Pharisees contrasted with God’s “who and be” priority.
You shall not murder
What and do?
- Know the “do not murder” commandment.
- Do not murder anyone.
Who and be?
- As a person who “Loves the Lord with all my heart, soul and might,” I am a person filled with love for everyone created in His image.
- As a person who “Loves the Lord with all my heart, soul and might,” I am a person filled with love for all my brothers and sisters and I do not hold anger toward them in my heart.
- As a person who “Loves the Lord with all my heart, soul and might,” I am a person filled with love for all my brothers and sisters and I do not insult them or the image of God in which they are created.
- As a person who “Loves the Lord with all my heart, soul and might,” I am a person filled with love for all of my brothers and sisters. When I approach the altar of the God I so love and remember that my brother or sister who also “loves the Lord with all their heart, soul and might,” has been hurt by me, I am broken hearted that God’s love has been violated and I immediately go to my sister and brother in reconciliation. Then I approach the Lord I love with all my heart.
- As a person who “Loves the Lord with all my heart, soul and might,” I am a person filled with love, not just for my sisters and brothers, but also for my adversaries. I settle matters quickly.
You shall not commit adultery
What and do?
- Know the “do not commit adultery” commandment.
- Do not commit adultery with anyone.
Who and be?
- As a person who “Loves the Lord with all my heart, soul and might,” I am a person filled with love for all my brothers and sisters and I do not have lust in my heart for them.
- Lust is a violation of God’s love for me and for the other person and it is a violation of my love of God and my love for the other person.
Divorce at will
What and do?
- You have been taught that divorce only requires a very simple certificate.
- Divorce at will, as long as you have the certificate.
Who and be?
- As a person who “Loves the Lord with all my heart, soul and might,” I am a person filled with love for my spouse.
- As a person who “Loves the Lord with all my heart, soul and might,” I love my spouse created in the image of God.
- As a person who “Loves the Lord with all my heart, soul and might,” I honor and respect my spouse who also “loves the Lord with all their heart, soul, and might.”
- As a person who “Loves the Lord with all my heart, soul and might,” I keep the vows I have with Him and with my spouse.
Make an oath
What and do?
- You have been taught that your word isn’t reliable so become trusted by making oaths based upon larger and larger things.
- Make huge oaths at will.
Who and be?
- As a person who “Loves the Lord with all my heart, soul and might,” I am a person filled with love for those with whom I am making an agreement.
- As a person who “Loves the Lord with all my heart, soul and might,” I am a person who makes only honest commitments and agreements.
- As a person who “Loves the Lord with all my heart, soul and might,” I am a person whose “Yes” is a 100% guaranteed yes.
What and do?
- You have been taught to retaliate, “eye for eye and tooth for tooth.”
- Feel free to retaliate.
Who and be?
- As a person who “Loves the Lord with all my heart, soul and might,” I highly value the image of God in which the person who wronged me is created.
- As a person who “Loves the Lord with all my heart, soul and might,” I trust the Lord I love to protect and defend me.
- As a person who “Loves the Lord with all my heart, soul and might,” I trust the Lord I love to care for me and properly deal with the one who wronged me.
- As a person who “Loves the Lord with all my heart, soul and might,” I relax in knowing He loved me first and will ultimately redeem and restore my entire life.
Love your neighbor and hate your enemies
What and do?
- You have been taught to “love your neighbor and hate your enemies.”
- Let your heart be filled with hate.
Who and be?
- As a person who “Loves the Lord with all my heart, soul and might,” I respect and honor the image of God in which my enemies have been created.
- As a person who “Loves the Lord with all my heart, soul and might,” my heart is filled with love and love alone. Who my enemy is or what my enemy does will not change God’s love that has filled me completely.
- As a person who “Loves the Lord with all my heart, soul and might,” I know Jesus lovingly prays for me and I extend that gift of prayer to my enemies too.
In all of God’s commandments you will find the Great Commandment.
To be a disciple of Jesus is to experience God’s love and reflect that same love back to God and to all people.
“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19
Our grandest experience is with God’s love. Our grandest expression is reflecting God’s love.
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 14:15
Without careful “love maintenance” we run the risk of repeating the Ephesian church failure.
Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. Revelation 2:4, 5
May you and I join the Psalmist in loving God and His word.
Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long.
I obey your statutes, for I love them greatly.