God Grant Me Grace

“I am insignificant and despised, but I do not forget your commandments.” Psalm 119:141 NLT

Our status in life need not dictate whether we know or obey the word of God. We may (or may not) be intelligent in matters of nuclear science, molecular biology, or cell functions but the only intelligence that matters in God’s eyes is our remembrance of his commands. We can have master’s degrees, doctorate degrees, or engineering degrees but without Christ, it is nothing. He cares about our hearts, not about our stature in the world.

“God opposes the proud but shows favor [grace] to the humble and oppressed. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” 1 Peter 5:5-6

Where we are insignificant to the world, we are significant to God. Where we are despised by the world, we are favored by God.  Where we lack in recognition we gain in grace from our Lord. Our status in this world is irrelevant.

“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

Let’s review some people who found favor (grace) in God’s eyes:

“But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” Genesis 6:8

“And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” Luke 2:52

“[David] enjoyed God’s favor.” Acts 7:46

“The Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” Psalm 84:11

Every time you see the word “favor” in these passages its original translation is “grace”. It can also be said that Ruth and Esther both found grace or unmerited favor (Ruth 2:10, Esther 7:3).Would you like an outpouring of God’s favor in your life? Do you desire to be significant in the kingdom of God over your significance in the world (Matthew 6:3).There is one ingredient in the recipe of grace: humility. Remembering the word of God is the beginning of humility. The cause and effect of truth in our life is this:

When we know the word of God we know who we are in God’s eyes, and this knowledge humbles us. As we are humbled under the mighty hand of God, he lifts us up with his grace.

Are you smart in the world or smart in the Word?

“He…gives grace to the humble.” Proverbs 3:34

Prayer

Jesus, it’s not easy to ask for a humble heart, but I want more of your grace. Grant me the spirit of humility in order for me to have your unmerited favor. When pride creeps in I ask your Spirit to convict me immediately. Pride cannot dwell in the house of grace so purge this awful sin from my life however painful that may be. Help me to remember your words even if that makes me mocked and scorned by those around me.

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Holy Water

Holy Water

“With my lips I recount all of the laws that come from your mouth.” Psalm 119:13 NIV

I’ll admit it, I like to sing in the shower, in my car, while I am doing the dishes, vacuuming, or even cleaning the litter box (which is tricky when you’re trying not to inhale).  Music has always been a part of my life and as an accompaniment pianist, I find myself hearing rhythms, accompaniment patterns, and ad libs whenever I listen to a song. I can’t even hear a clock ticking without hearing tempos and singing songs in my head. I have memorized many songs unintentionally just by listening to them and singing them over and over again. It’s really annoying when I get a commercial jingle stuck in my head, and I find myself singing about auto insurance at odd hours of the night.

A lot of times we think we can’t remember anything, and it’s true we all misplace our keys or lose our debit cards occasionally. (In my case almost daily in the pit that is my purse.) If we’re honest we’ll admit it’s not as hard to memorize something as we think it is; in reality it just depends on what’s important to us and what we choose to listen to/look at on a consistent basis.

The Psalmist said he could recount all of the laws verbally. That’s a pretty impressive statement. How do you suppose he was able to do that? I doubt it was because he glanced over them for an hour once a week. He most likely repeated them over and over again out loud many times a day; just like that commercial jingle that gets stuck in your head because you hear it over and over again during that football game (or movie or whatever you like to watch). When we hear something and repeat it out loud we tend to remember it better. Often times when I am trying to memorize a verse I repeat it out loud many times as I lay in bed until I fall asleep. It’s the first thing on my mind when I wake up and I remember it a lot better than just reading a verse on a page. You would think having spent over a year studying Psalm 119, I would have most of it memorized by now, but it’s not the case. I only remember the verses I have intentionally sought to remember and spent time speaking them and hearing my own voice saying them. That verbal reinforcement is powerful and transforming.

The Hebrew word for recount in this verse is actually to declare, inscribe, enumerate, celebrate, commune, speak, talk or tell.  This is not just a mental exercise; it’s also a physical process involving the tongue. It’s no wonder this is necessary in training the mind as we see in James 3:6:

“The tongue is also a fire, a word of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire.”

Have you ever said something you regretted? Has your tongue ever gotten you in trouble and lit up your life like a flaming wildfire? I know I have. The Scriptures are our way of dousing those flames with “holy water”, so to speak. When we declare the words of the Lord with our mouths, we reiterate to our minds truth that transforms. It takes black and white off the page and puts it into practice. We’re more likely to remember the words and attitude of Jesus that we are told to emulate if we are spending time repeating them. Is there something in your life that you struggle with? Perhaps it’s anger, gossip, or impatience. Find a verse that addresses the issue you struggle with, and commit it to memory by repeating it out loud several times every day. Listen to the word of God spoken on a cd in your car, or record it yourself to listen to you when you’re driving. Declare it in your bed at night until it begins to transform your mind and you can say, “With my lips I recount your laws, Lord!”

Prayer

Jesus, I ask that you reveal a verse to me that I need to commit to memory. I want my actions to mirror the life of Jesus, and I realize I need to have a transformation of thinking in order for that to occur. Control the damaging flames of my tongue with the cooling water of your word.

Heart Sick

Heart Sick

“If your instructions hadn’t sustained me with joy, I would have died in my misery.” Psalm 119:92 NLT

Have you noticed that some of these verses about “delight” have referenced pain, misery, anguish, trouble, or discomfort of some kind? (See Psalm 119:143) I like how the Message puts it:

“If your revelation hadn’t delighted me so, I would have given up when the hard times came.”

Do you know anyone who has given up? Perhaps you have given up? I know a few people who have definitely given up on life, given up hope for happiness, and are certainly drowning in a sea of their own misery. I have been there myself. Part of the problem is whether or not we really understand the character of God. It’s one thing to look at a verse and nod in agreement, but if that truth hasn’t infiltrated the deepest recesses of our minds, it won’t transform our behavior. And by behavior I mean whether or not we choose to trust our Sovereign God when we are facing terrible distresses. We can know all the facts in the world about the Bible, Jesus, God and various doctrines, but if we are not living it out, it is worthless information (James 1:23-25); just words on a page or knowledge in the brain. Facts won’t transform us.

When we are hopeless, miserable, and despairing it is an outward evidence of an inward illness; the heart that has not fully understood the living truth of God’s promises. We’re not instructed to transform our behavior through memorizing facts (not that memorization is bad-quite the contrary), we are told to be “transformed” by the “renewing” (Greek word meaning “renovation”) of our minds; this is the only way to discover God’s will. (Romans 12:2) Our mind must undergo a spiritual renovation. This process involves removing the old décor, tearing down some walls, maybe building a new room, and removing the old clutter. This renovation will teach us to think in a different way. This way of thinking is led by the Holy Spirit, and is centered on the word of God and his revealed truth. Without this mind makeover, we are left to our own way of thinking which seems good to us, but in reality is conformed to the thought processes of the world. We cannot be worldly and spiritual at the same time.

If we really know God relationally (as opposed to just factually) we will begin to have a transformation of thought which will result in a transformation of behavior. Take a marriage, for example. As you get to know your spouse as a person (their character) you begin to behave differently around them. You have a level of trust based on your knowledge of who they are, and how they have acted towards you in the past. You also allow yourself to be more “real” in the presence of your partner as opposed to a person you just met last week. It’s not the facts of your spouse that influences your behavior, it’s the knowledge of their character based on your experience with them in your life.

So, are you miserable? What has your experience and relationship with God been like? Do you know his character, do you trust what the Bible says about who he is and how he feels about you, his treasured creation? Your relationship with God will dictate your behavior. Walking around moping and feeling sorry for ourselves is a demonstration of disbelief in God’s word. Does that sound too hard? Think about it!  It is something we are all guilty of at times, but it can be different! God’s word can sustain us with a deep lasting joy despite any situation. It doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll be walking around bubbly and enthusiastic all the time, but it does mean that deep down we will trust God, his word, and his promises and know his plan is being worked out in us. (Romans 8:28) That knowledge and experience with our Lord will relieve our pressure, lift our burdens, and give us joy! God is working this out: hallelujah! I know I can’t figure it out on my own (and when I try it usually turns into a total nightmare) but I know when God is moving miraculous things occur. I want my eyes to be open to the miracles he’s performing every day in my life, but I can’t see and be thankful for those things if I am fixated on not getting my way.

If it’s in my life (and yours) then God allowed it, and if I have a problem with that I need to dig deeper in to his word to discover more of his heart for me. God isn’t the problem, he’s the solution.

Prayer

Jesus, right now I choose to thank you for this circumstance in my life. I admit I am uncomfortable, but I realize that you are painting the portrait, not me. I will stop trying to add my colors to your picture, and let you be the Artist. Teach me more of who you are and what you are up to in my life so I may learn to trust you completely in all things. Today I ask for you to show yourself to me in a mighty miraculous way, confirm for me the truth that you are here, you care, and you have a plan. Impress that upon my heart with your Holy Spirit, and help me to be quiet so I can listen to your voice.

Effective

Effective

“I pray with all my heart.” Psalm 119:145 NLT

It’s impossible to talk about the word of God and not mention prayer. The Psalmist says that he will not only obey with all his heart, seek with all his heart, but also pray with all his heart. This, of course, implies that we could pray with less than our whole heart. What would that look like?

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men….But when you pray, go into your room and close the door and pray to your father, who is unseen.” Matthew 6:5-6

Jesus knew there were many people who loved to give lip service and be seen and admired by men. He strongly urged his disciples to avoid this kind of prayer at all costs. While there is nothing wrong with praying in public, we do it every Sunday in churches all over the world, there is something wrong with praying to impress others. It shows a division of heart. The intellect is involved with fancy words and long elegant speeches, but the rest of the heart (acting out the truth with the will, for example) is not on board or backing up the prayer. Jesus also warned us:

“If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24

Prayer is a form of worship, just as much as singing songs, Bible study, or tithing. We are told that no gift should be offered when we are not right with our brothers and sisters in Christ. How many times have we persisted in prayer, study, and singing while knowing we were bitter against someone else or they were bitter against us? We are admonished to do all we can to keep peace and unity in order for our offerings to be accepted. We cannot change how people feel about us, but we can make every effort to make things right. 12 step programs often refer to this as “making amends”. While the person we seek to restore fellowship with may not accept our offer, we must make the effort in sincerity of heart in order for God to be honored and our gift to be accepted.  Perhaps when we pray and God is silent, it is because He is waiting for us to act in obedience to his revealed will.

“The righteous cry out and the Lord hears them.” Psalm 34:17

The word righteous in this passage comes from the Hebrew root word meaning “cleanse”, “clear”, or “morally right”. Thus, the believer who is pure in heart or cleansed is the just believer whose prayers are heard. I don’t know about you, but I want my prayers to be heard! This is a powerful motivation for keeping my conscience clean before God, and others. What good does it do to spend an hour in elaborate prayer when my prayers are not being heard?

A few years ago my brother in law was diagnosed with leukemia. There was a sinking feeling that it wasn’t going to turn out well, and deep down in my spirit, I knew the outcome, though I certainly believed that God could bring healing if it was His will to do so. This was a life-changing event for me. I knew God could heal, I knew God had a plan, but I also knew I was called to pray over the situation in earnest. God brought me to James 5:16b over and over again.

“The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”

The word righteous here is translated “holy”, “just”, or “innocent”. I realized that if I wanted God to hear me, I needed to have a clean heart before Him. Realizing that there are so many needs today for health, healing, freedom, truth, enlightenment, and wisdom (among many other things) was also a realization that praying for these things was a useless endeavor if my heart was not right with God. I was wasting my breath. I clearly remember this time of my life because God used it to motivate me to holiness, and being sold out to Him in living my faith.  Many times my prayers begin with confession as I come into the presence of a holy God and am reminded of my own ungodliness.

In order to have an undivided heart in prayer, we need to seek cleansing and purity before God. In order to be an effective prayer warrior, we need to ask God to convict us that we need a change of heart. God is the only One who can reveal to us faults we otherwise cannot see. I have experienced this truth time and again when asking God to cleanse my heart. There have been grievous sins committed on my part that I never even realized were sins until God opened my eyes to it! Once he did, I was horrified at my attitude! But unless I had asked him to search me and show me what needed fixing, I would have ignorantly gone on with an undivided heart probably wondering why my prayer life wasn’t as effective as it could be.

Just to be clear; I am not saying that the only way our prayers will be heard is if we are perfect. I am saying that God is clear in his word of what will hinder our prayers from being effective; willful disobedience, sin in ignorance, or a divided heart. I don’t want to be guilty of any of these things, and I pray you feel the same way! Let us obey, seek, and pray with a whole heart. Let us seek to be right before God in all we do, and keep a clear conscience in order to be the most effective prayer warriors that we can be!

Prayer

As I come into your presence, Lord, I ask that you reveal to me any secret sins I have hidden in my heart. I want to wholeheartedly serve you and I want to pray with a heart that is united to fear you. I want to be an effective prayer warrior; even more so I want to be right and have a clear conscience before you. Search me and cleanse me, give me a heart that understands your holiness and give me displeasure for the things that will divide my heart. Thank you for being merciful and loving to show me where I need cleansing!

Visions

Visions

“I seek you with all my heart.” Psalm 119:10 NIV

“I sought your face with all my heart.” Psalm 119:58 NIV

Car keys

Debit Cards

Remote Controls

People

Love

Happiness

Purpose

Have you ever found yourself searching for any of these things?  I have searched for all of these things at some point in my life! I have been guilty of filling my life with the things of the world in order to find happiness, love, or fulfillment. I have also spent a lot of time searching for missing items, like the remote control! (It’s always between the cushions!) If I were to look back and think, would I be able to determine how much of me was actually involved in the search effort? When I was attempting to find happiness apart from God, I searched with my whole heart! Why? Because I wasn’t satisfied and I didn’t have a purpose! Therefore my mind, will, and emotions were searching feverishly after a source of deep fulfillment. I wanted to be wanted, and I didn’t understand that I already was wanted by the Creator of the universe himself! This search led me to make many terrible choices, some of which will have lasting consequences here on earth. I’m very grateful to God that he continued to pursue a relationship with me, and never let me be comfortable apart from it!

The Psalmist reminds us that not only are we to obey, but we are also to seek after God with all of ourselves. Not just intellectually, but in our wills and emotions. Our affections need to be seeking after the only One who can satisfy.

“I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.” Proverbs 8:17

“Seek his kingdom.” Luke 12:31

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart…” Luke 10:27, Deut. 6:5, Mark 12:30

“Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.” Psalm 105:3-4

One cannot truly obey whole heartedly unless they are first seeking whole heartedly. How do we seek God with all our hearts? The same way we obey with all our hearts! We look for him not just in our minds to expand knowledge, but in our will. We deliberately make a choice to search for his truth. Then in our emotions; when we are feeling like God must not be concerned with our troubles, we direct our emotions to search for God in our circumstances. He promises us that if we seek him, we will find him!

If you are a believer, a Christ-follower, then God is with you! If you don’t see him, it is because you are not looking. God has not gone anywhere, he is there. He never abandons his children, whether or not his children feel abandoned.  Often I am tempted to pray, “Be with me, God” or “Be with them”, and then I check myself. God is already there! If I am a believer, how much closer can God get to me when he is already in my heart? No, instead I need to be praying, “Let me see you, Lord, because I know you are here!” If I seek him, I am promised that I will find him! Likewise, this promise is for all God’s children! What a marvelous truth!

“God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out to him, though he is not far from each one of us.” Acts 17:27

The problem in seeing God is that we are not looking with a united heart, most notably with our emotions. No wonder we doubt so easily! Our minds look for him in his word, or in outward signs, but our will does not act with the authority of his promises. We don’t realize he has been there all along; we just missed him. We cannot be satisfied to seek him only for greater knowledge; we need to seek his truth with our whole heart. It’s a simple formula; seek and find. This formula involves not only reading his word, but spending time listening to his voice. Usually we are too busy to sit and listen, and we miss his direction and purpose. Prayer is a very important part of uniting the hearts vision of God. We never want to become out of balanced, full of knowledge without application.

The one who is whole heartedly seeking after truth will find it in God’s word and from his voice.

He is not far from us, we simply need to look.

Prayer

Jesus, I know I often get overwhelmed in my circumstances and fail to see you. I often ask you to come to me when you have been here all along waiting for me to catch a glimpse of you! Open my eyes and let me see you in my every day! I don’t want to miss what you have for me because I am too busy looking around instead of at you. Help me to learn how to be still and listen to your voice. Give me a new vision of you, and unite my heart to see it clearly with all that I am!

“Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;

Naught be all else to me, save that thou art:

Thou my best thought, by day or by night,

Waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.”

Emotional

Emotional

“I obey your commands with all my heart.” Psalm 119:69 NLT

“I will put them into practice with all my heart.” Psalm 119:34 NLT

“Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.” Psalm 86:11

“I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 7:35

“All the believers were one in heart and mind.” Acts 4:32

How many times have you heard someone say, “I know it in my head, but I need to know it in my heart”? I know I have said it!  We are designed very uniquely. We have a heart, or an inner being that is multifaceted. Our spirit is made up of our mind, will, and emotions. We can practice the word of God with our minds (look at the Pharisees in the Gospels) and not have our will and emotions in the right place.

The Psalmist understood that the word needed to penetrate every aspect of his inner being, not just his head. The word needed to be molded through every aspect of his heart. His mind, will, and emotions needed to be bent towards God.  It’s quite easy, actually, to have our minds bent towards the things of God, and not our emotions. Our emotions are often the thing that trips us up. We read the word, and even know the word intellectually, but our emotions tell us we feel different. Much of the world’s philosophies involve living on emotions. “Do what feels right.” Just because it feels right doesn’t mean it is right! The only way we can do what is right, is to know what is right, and to know what is right is to know God’s word.

We must come to the word of God asking him to unite our hearts to his truth; that is, unite our minds, wills, and emotions towards his truth. This involves taking captive our will to do what is unnatural to the word of God, and our emotions that often feel what is not in line with the word of God, and demanding they obey the word of God as much as our minds.

There will be many times in our Christian walk that we don’t feel as if God loves or cares for us even though we know it in our minds; we won’t want to do what we know is right with our wills, yet we must ask God to order all of our heart to obey! We must practice walking in the truth of God with our intellect, our emotions, and our wills. I believe the Psalmist knew how difficult this was, and that is why he stressed the point so many times in this chapter. I can personally attest to making very poor decisions when allowing myself to be ruled by my emotions. I am a very sensitive person, so this is a very hard subject for me. Hard or not, it is the truth of God’s word. I must ask him to unite my heart in order to be effective, stay away from sinful attitudes, and stay in his will.

The only way to stay on the path of holy obedience is to have a wholeness of heart.

Prayer

Thank you for making me so wonderfully complicated, Lord! Teach me how to love and obey you with all of my heart, not just my intellect. I want to know who you are, and I want the truth of your word to penetrate my will that I may walk in your ways, and my emotions that I may be sensitive to your truth.

 

Blameless

Blameless

“May I be blameless in keeping your decrees; then I will never be ashamed.” Psalm 119:80 NLT

When we enter the presence of God are we ashamed or confident? Can we come to him in prayer and feel good about the way we have conducted our lives? The prophet Isaiah got a taste of the holiness of God and declared, “Woe is me for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips…for mine eyes have seen the glory of the Lord of hosts!” (Isa 6:5) This account gives me goose bumps every time I read it. How do we view ourselves when we come into the presence of the Almighty? Do we come to him with an attitude of indulgence, demanding what we think we need? I fear much of what has happened today is a lack of self-awareness. We don’t view ourselves as we ought to. We are weighed down with pride. We approach God as if he is our vending machine. “Bless this pursuit, God, thank you!”

We ought to be ashamed of ourselves for ever losing sight of the holiness of God!

Yet, God doesn’t call us into a life of shame and regret, does he? He calls us into a life of holiness. He is a Holy God, and he demands holiness from his children.  However, there is a big difference between living a holy life, and living a life of bondage. We can try so hard to be “good” in our own power that we become slaves to rituals, rules, and conduct codes. Read the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) and try to live that out. It can’t be done apart from the Holy Spirit! Reading the “do’s” and “don’ts” of the law then trying to act them out is a sure way to feel like a failure. We are called to live a blameless life, but we are not called into bondage. The only way to live a holy life is to walk in the will of God, and that involves spending time getting to know Him. As we get to know the voice of God and his leading we get “in tune” with the Holy Spirit and his ways. Over time we see a change in our conduct.

 The behavior springs forth from the relationship, the relationship doesn’t come from the behavior.  If we have the relationship right, the behavior will flow. So, are we walking the “fruits of the spirit”? Are we a living testimony of the Sermon on the Mount? If not, we need to check in on our relationship and knowledge of the Lord. If we are walking in the Spirit, he will lead us into his will.

When I come into the presence of God I do not want to be ashamed.

“I have been blameless before him and have kept myself from sin.” 2 Samuel 22:24

“I will be careful to lead a blameless life-when will you come to me? I will walk in my house with a blameless heart. I will set my eyes before no vile thing.” Psalm 101:2-3

“He whose walk is blameless is kept safe.” Proverbs 28:18

“You must be blameless before the Lord your God.” Deuteronomy 18:13

“For he chose us in him before the beginning of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” Ephesians 1:4

“Make every effort to be found spotless, blameless, and at peace with him.” 2 Peter 3:14

All of the biblical knowledge in the world will be put to shame without a right heart. The Pharisees followed all the rules, but their hearts were perverse. They didn’t grasp the fact that their behavior would not earn them anything before God. They had to come to Jesus first, and they were unwilling to do that. No doubt, they were put to shame because of their religious hypocrisy.

If we want to have confidence in our prayer life, we need to be walking the blameless life. We cannot do that apart from Jesus. Intimate dependence on him is the beginning of correct behavior. We start in his word, getting to know him, spending time with him and letting his Spirit change our hearts as we mature in him.

This is the holy life; walking in the will of God.

A relationship with a holy God will lead us into the blameless life. In this way we can enter the throne room of Christ and have confidence in what we ask.

The holy life is the life never put to shame.

Prayer

Jesus, I know every single day I fall far short of your holy standard. I want to come into your presence with confidence and assurance that I am in your will. Help me this moment to see a glimpse of your true holiness. I know you want what is best for me, and that it’s perfectly lined out in your word. Teach me to love your word so I can know your word and follow your word. I need your Spirit to guide me into truth to keep me from being ashamed in your presence. I want to stand before you confident that I am in your will and living the blameless life.