Tuesday, October 21, 2014
I have seen ruthless evil men growing in influence, like a green tree grows in its native soil. But then one passes by, and suddenly they have disappeared! I looked for them, but they could not be found. Take note of the one who has integrity! Observe the godly! For the one who promotes peace has a future. (Psalm 37:35-37 NET)
How many of us have caught ourselves envying ruthless, evil people who care nothing about God, and yet are enjoying success and influence? We all have at one time or another. It’s natural for these thoughts to come. But those of us who are smart and spiritual catch ourselves and remember the words of David when he said that ruthless and evil men would suddenly disappear and not be found.
Even David, a man of great success, power and wealth noticed evil people around him growing in power, as if they were plants in their native habitat and all creation were cooperating with them. At times we wonder how people who refuse to pray, read the Bible, give offerings, attend church or live holy lives can have so much. But one thing we do know, their time is short. They have no future. At any time the devil can take away all they have. They are not safe.
Even King David who was a man of great accomplishments and power notice that there were ruthless and spiritually bankrupt people around him (most probably kings of other nations) who were growing in influence. Though they seemed to be thriving like a plant in its native habitat, as if all creation were cooperating with them, he didn’t let these thoughts take over his heart and make him bitter. He trusted in God and knew that his future was secure only as long as he maintained a strong faith in the Almighty.
David encourages us to take note of those with integrity and godliness. Very soon they will see God’s answers and will outshine the ungodly, but only if they keep their eyes on Him. If they give in to envy of the ungodly and forget about God’s promises, they will become a block to God’s blessings in their lives.
“The righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it permanently.” (Psalm 37:29 HCSB)
The history of the Israelites is marked with many wanderings in the desert in search of their promised land. Abraham had to travel over one hundred and fifty miles to be led by God to the land of Canaan. Later Jacob had to run back to Abraham’s family home to hide from his angry brother Esau, and only years later took the long arduous trek back to Canaan to make peace. Joseph was captured and hauled away as a slave to Egypt and his brothers and father had to travel there to find food to sustain them during a famine. Years later, Israel was exiled and taken as slaves to Babylon because they had rejected God and treated Him with disdain. The land had always been theirs since the time of Abraham, but too many times sin, selfishness and a lack of trust in God removed them from that beloved place.
In the same manner, there is a promised land for us all – a life of victory and abundance of joy that was purchased for us on the cross by the Lord Jesus. Eventually we who are true believers will all enter into the Kingdom of Heaven when our lives on this earth are over. But that is not what this verse is about. God is promising us our inheritance today, and inheritance of all His promises coming true in our lives, where we will dwell permanently and not have that land stolen from us or invaded by enemies. The requirement in this promise, is that we be righteous.
If you feel like you often find yourself just about to reach your promised land and then it seems to be snatched away time after time, see if you are living a life that God would consider to be righteous. Clean your heart, remove any stumbling blocks or opportunities for the devil to rob you again. This promise is for you to be settled and safe in the land that He already promised you. Don’t be like the people of Israel in their beautiful land flowing with milk and honey, who lazily forgot the One who was their protector and provider, and ended up losing it all. But even if you have already committed those mistakes, you can begin right now to honor God above all with your life. Repent and change, and see how soon that land will be restored to you. It has always been meant for us, but it’s up to us to decide that we will live in a manner worthy of such a wonderful inheritance.
Turn away from evil and do what is good, and dwell there forever. For the Lord loves justice and will not abandon His faithful ones. They are kept safe forever, but the children of the wicked will be destroyed. (Psalm 37:27,28 HCSB)
God is not a stern judge who enjoys punishing people whenever they do any little thing wrong. Though Jesus perfectly kept the Law when He lived on earth, a law that condemned adultery, lying, theft, and murder, He forgave people who had broken it. He forgave the woman that was caught in adultery, and even forced her accusers who who wanted to stone her, to think about their own sins. He also forgave Zacchaeus, a huge liar and thief, and He forgave a murderer when He took Barabbas’ place on the cross. The Lord Jesus never broke the Law of God given to Moses, but when it came to its application to other people He chose mercy over judgment. He opted to concentrate on people’s character rather than their outward actions.
Jesus told the adulteress that she was free to go after her accusers had one by one walked away, but told her to “go and sin no more.” During the dinner that Zacchaeus put on for Jesus, he stood up and declared that he would not longer live the life of a thief, and promised to pay back every penny he had stolen. Clearly, Jesus was ready to forgive any sin or weakness, but came to teach people a better way, the way of turning away from evil and doing good. Hundreds of years after Psalm 37 had been written, Jesus came and lived it out as an example to all.
The more we turn away from evil and do good, the closer God will be to us. He promises not to abandon those who live good lives. We can say that we love God all we want, but that love will always be imperfect as long as we do not HATE sin and the devil. How can we love a holy God when we don’t hate unholiness? Impossible.
For our own good we need to choose to turn away from evil whenever it appears; the sooner we get away from it the better. God promises not to abandon His faithful ones, but when we choose not to turn away from evil, we ourselves push Him away and tie His hands that are so eager to help us.
He is always generous, always lending, and his children are a blessing. (Psalm 37:26 HCSB)
Everyone likes to imagine themselves as being generous, but our flesh doesn’t like parting with what we believe is rightfully ours. We only give when we are certain of some sort of payback. People will shell over hundreds of dollars for great seats at a football game and a nice tailgate party to enjoy with friends, because they consider the variety of benefits to be well worth it. But to be asked to help someone in need who has no possibility of repaying, is another story. Giving a few bucks in church is about the best a lot of people can do, but then go home to complain about how they really needed that money.
Being generous in spirit is not just about what is given, but the attitude of the heart as we give. It’s about the nature of our character that wants to give. The best test of that kind of nature is how we react when it comes to unexpected situations when we can choose to either give, or to hold back. Generosity is a noble virtue in theory, but not too popular in practice. This very short verse links generosity to a legacy for our children. They are blessed, and they become a blessing – to us, and to all who come into contact with them. When we give to others, we are giving to God, as Jesus taught in the parable of the sheep and goats. Whenever we give to God, it always comes back to us multiplied.
When the enjoyment of giving becomes a part of you, and even if you have no children, the product of what you do and who you are, becomes a blessing. You instill a generous spirit in others who pass it on and in time, your entire community and circle of friends and family will become changed.
Generous hearts are found in people who trust that there will always be enough for their needs. They live by faith because they believe in a safe future before they see it happen. They can give without fear. They are also people who in time, become financially blessed because their giving spirit creates an automatic response of provision from God. They are able to even lend and not worry about making ends meet, which is one of the promises in Deuteronomy 15:5, “…you will lend to many nations but not borrow.”
When the world teaches that generosity is weakness, God reveals that generosity is courage and faith that impacts our homes and communities. Don’t wait to have everything perfect in your life before you begin to give. Develop a generous spirit now so that God can begin to bless you back today.
Saturday, October 18, 2014
I have been young and now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous abandoned or his children begging for bread. (Psalm 37:25 HCSB)
King David had seen many things in his life. He began as a simple, unknown shepherd boy, the last of eight brothers, and rose to become one of the greatest leaders of Israel, and their greatest king. Throughout his life he was overlooked, laughed at, betrayed, cheated, lied to, disrespected, attacked, ambushed, accused of being proud and treated as a traitor, but he also had amazing victories, stayed strong in his faith, served as an example for his people and died with his salvation intact.
Clearly David (and the Holy Spirit) is not telling us to expect a problem-free life. Without a doubt there were times that David was tempted to feel abandoned, when his prayers were not being answered, and when it seemed like circumstances and his enemies were stronger than he was. But every time, in the end, David could say that God came through for him, that he was not abandoned, that his children did not need to beg for food.
Victory and blessings do not always mean a trouble-free life. Troubles are one of our greatest teachers. We learn the most when we’re going through rough times. We draw closest to God when we are in trouble and feel inadequate. So when God promises never to abandon us He is not saying that He’ll block all problems from entering our lives. What He is promising is that we will have problems, but as we persevere and refuse to give in to doubt and fear, we will see His power and answers.
As long as we stay close to God by having faith and trusting that “all things work for the good”, we will never be abandoned. David was not abandoned, and he states that he had never seen the righteous abandoned, even at the end of a long, full life. Why should we listen to the opposite? Shouldn’t we trust the Word of God and the testimony of a man of God that experienced all sorts of trials and came out on top? Put the devil in his place when he comes with whispers of how God might not take care of you this time.
Friday, October 17, 2014
The Lord watches over the blameless all their days, and their inheritance will last forever. They will not be disgraced in times of adversity; they will be satisfied in days of hunger. But the wicked will perish; the Lord’s enemies, like the glory of the pastures, will fade away—they will fade away like smoke. (Psalm 37:18-20 HCSB)
This is a powerful promise to hold onto, to remind yourself of, and to remind God of when you are going through tough times. God says that if you are blameless you will not be disgraced in times of adversity. All of us are sinners, and all of us are very flawed, but God is talking about the blamelessness and purity that comes when we live a life of repentance and faith in Jesus sacrifice for us. He covers us with His perfection, and clothes us with His goodness when we daily die to our flesh and daily live for Him. Those who are truly living our their salvation, are blameless in God’s eyes, and they can be sure they will not be disgraced.
One woman in the church used this passage when she was facing false accusations on her job. A group of employees had become jealous because her boss was pleased with her work. He was letting her have privileges that were denied to the rest of them, and so they banded together to force her out of her job. It was a painful time, not just because of the accusations, but her emotions were running amok. She felt fear, anger, doubt, insecurity, panic, and shed a lot of tears, but none of that was necessary. She belonged to God, and all that energy should have been channeled into trusting in Him and fighting the devil. When she read this verse, she remembered what she had learned in church, and reigned in all the wild emotions and focused her attention on faith. She trusted that God had to keep His Word, and He did. The plans of her accusers fell apart, and she was treated fairly and in a few months time, was given a promotion. This would never have happened if she hadn’t caught herself from allowing her emotions to rule her – if she had done so, she would no longer be seen by God as “blameless.”
God watches over you all your days. You have an inheritance that lasts forever. Your inheritance isn’t just going to heaven when you die. God tells us in Romans 8:17 that we are heirs together with Christ. We are in God’s royal family, and even now on this earth, we can receive the benefits of an heir. He promises to rescue us from disgrace and to satisfy our hunger. Make this promise yours today.
The little that the righteous man has is better than the abundance of many wicked people. For the arms of the wicked will be broken, but the Lord supports the righteous. (Psalm 37:16-17 HCSB)
Did you know that you are richer with God, than a Fortune 500 tycoon without God? Many self-proclaimed Christians would swap out their “faith” for a tycoon’s wealth, given the chance. I’m certain of that. I’ve seen enough people in financial straights pray with such fervor for God to rescue them from their troubles, and then become too busy for God once He answers their prayers with a decent job. Next thing you know they’ve fallen back into old sinful habits and don’t know why.
The world has it all backwards. When God and His ways are top priority in our lives, we are rich. Period. Even with less possessions, we are always richer than those who don’t prioritize Him.
This principle is visible in our acts of tithing and offering giving. We start off with a smaller value in our bank account, but because what we gave was done in a holy and reverent way, the remainder becomes blessed and protected. We are able to use what is left for all our needs, it even multiplies, doors of opportunity open, and we avoid unexpected attacks on our finances that the devil and his devouring spirits plot against us.
But this principle also plays out in variety of ways, in all aspects of our lives. The teenager who is made fun of because she stays pure for God and won’t party with the popular crowd may feel left out, but in fact she is being blessed day by day with a wealth of wisdom, with open paths for her future career and studies, and eventually happy and blessed marriage when she is mature enough for the responsibility, all because she lives each day to please God above her flesh. The man who feels ashamed because he can’t provide for his family while his rich cousin proudly throws his money around, has nothing to be ashamed of because he is investing his daily efforts and faith into honoring God above all. He has a happy family to greet him every night after work, and a faith that will allow God to take his career father than he ever imagined. When he doesn’t allow the world’s ideas to make him insecure, he realizes that he is so rich, that he even feels sorry for his cousin.
When blessings are given to us by God, and not taken out of our own greed, they are lasting and able to give us joy. We don’t worship money or possessions, but we worship the One who graciously gave them to us. When God sees that we are faithful in the few things that He gives us, faithful to honor Him first, and faithful to keep our hearts humble and obedient to Him, no matter how much or how little we have, He is pleased to grant us much more. He knows we can handle blessings without envy or greed. This quality of trust is what He is looking for, because this is the key to receiving the fulfillment to all of His promises.