Life Matter - Guidance Thoughts

"Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me" - Psalm 119:133.

Psalm 119 contains many verses that make wonderful prayers you can pray for yourself. Today's verse is a good example. The writer was asking God to guide him and keep sin from having dominion over him. Who should not be praying that prayer? God is able to guide your steps, and you may not even be conscious He is doing so. The safeguard against deception is to make sure all the guidance you "sense" is consistent with God's word. What's more, He is protecting you from things so subtly that you are often not aware of His protection. The Amplified Version of Proverbs 16:3 is a wonderful paraphrase of how God will often guide you: "Roll your works upon the Lord—commit and entrust them wholly to Him—and He will cause your thoughts to be agreeable to His will, and so shall your plans be established and succeed." Have you made a commitment to do God's will before you know what it is? Then you can count on God directing your steps by directing your thoughts. What ideas do you have that you can assume are from the Lord because they are not contrary to His word, and upon which you need to act in the coming year?

Today's reading - Psalm 119

Life Matters - Membership Has Its Privileges

"Extol the Lord, Jerusalem; praise your God, Zion. He strengthens the bars of your gates and blesses your people within you. He grants peace to your borders and satisfies you with the finest of wheat" - Psalm 147:12-14.

God is not only concerned for the individual, singular you. He is also concerned for the corporate you, which in modern terms is you as a part of the local church. Paul wrote 13 epistles, four of which were addressed to individuals and nine to churches. They all outlined theological issues and expected behavioral norms for the body of Christ in general. In today's verses, the psalmist was addressing Jerusalem as a whole, describing how the Lord would bless the residents of the city with security, peace, and provision. There was a credit card company that once had a slogan, "Membership has its privileges." The same can be said for involvement in a local church, where as a member you are expected to contribute your finances and spiritual gifts in return for God's blessings. Paul wrote this about your involvement in the church: "What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up" (1 Corinthians 14:26). Are you coming together with other believers for prayer, worship, and Word ministry? Are you acting in the best interests of your church, building up the body of Christ through your presence? What blessings have you received for doing so?


Today's reading - Psalms 146-150

Life Matter - Trained for War

"Praise be to the Lord my Rock,
    who trains my hands for war,
    my fingers for battle.
He is my loving God and my fortress,
    my stronghold and my deliverer,
my shield, in whom I take refuge,
    who subdues peoples under me" - Psalm 144:1-2.

We know David as a king, psalmist, prayer champion, and poet, but he was also a king warrior, who was trained for battle by God Himself. In the midst of all his battles, David acknowledged that God was everything he needed - fortress, stronghold, deliverer, shield, refuge and loving battle Companion who knew how to take the offensive. God wants to be all that for you, but you must be willing to engage the battle and allow God to train you to be aggressive, not expecting God to do for you what only you can do for yourself. David had mighty men around him, and one of them fought so long and hard that his hand was stuck to his sword: "Next to him was Eleazar son of Dodai the Ahohite. As one of the three mighty warriors, he was with David when they taunted the Philistines gathered at Pas Dammim for battle. Then the Israelites retreated, but Eleazar stood his ground and struck down the Philistines till his hand grew tired and froze to the sword. The Lord brought about a great victory that day. The troops returned to Eleazar, but only to strip the dead" (2 Samuel 23:9-10). God brought the victory, but, Eleazar stood his ground and fought. What do you think your part is in the spiritual battle in which you are presently engaged? Are you doing your part, or waiting on God to do your part - which He won't do?

Today's reading - Psalms 141-145

Life Matter - A Little Longer

"The Lord will vindicate me; your love, Lord, endures forever—do not abandon the works of your hands" - Psalm 138:8.

David wrote of his confidence that the Lord would vindicate him and make everything right that had turned so wrong. Vindicate is defined as "to clear, as from an accusation, imputation, suspicion, or the like." It can be difficult to trust the Lord to vindicate you, especially in this age when people regularly resort to the court system to gain the advantage or revenge over those who injure you. God had made it clear, however, that vindication and vengeance are His duties, not yours. In the book of Revelation, we see those who were martyred inquiring of the Lord about their vindication, and He gave them this response: "They called out in a loud voice, 'How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?' Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters,were killed just as they had been" (Revelation 6:10-11). Are you tempted to seize control of the timetable for your vindication? Is God telling you to wait a little longer? Can you trust the Lord to clear your name, even if it happens after you are no longer present to witness it?

Today's reading - Psalms 136-140

Life Matter - God with Us

"He swore an oath to the Lord, he made a vow to the Mighty One of Jacob: 'I will not enter my house or go to my bed, I will allow no sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids, till I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob'" - Psalm 132:2-5.

David swore an oath that he would build a house for God's presence, and that house, the Temple, has been the focus of Israel for the last 3,000 years! Yet David's preoccupation with a building wasn't God's highest priority, for God is more interested in living in His people's hearts than in a building. Today, God's people are still concerned, sometimes infatuated, with "God's house," when it's only bricks-and-mortar, a functional venue to house worship activities. Joseph had a dream that Mary was going to have a baby boy, and that His name was to be Jesus. Matthew explained the reason He was given that name: "'She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.' All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 'The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means 'God with us')" (Matthew 1:21-23). Does God actually live in a building, making it holy? Are you more concerned with church buildings or God's presence in the hearts of His people, including your own? What are the implications that God is living inside of you?

Today's reading - Psalm 131-135

Life Matter - Earned Joy

"The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy" - Psalm 126:3.

The Christmas story is full of joy. Joseph and Mary were joyful that they had a son. The shepherds were joyful that the angels had announced the birth to them. The angels were joyful that God's purpose was being fulfilled through the events in Bethlehem. And the Magi were joyful, for after having traveled hundreds of miles, the star led them to the exact spot where Jesus was residing: "After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh" (Matthew 2:9-11). Can you see that the Magi paid a price to find Jesus, and so, in a sense, they earned their joy because they responded to the star in faith, and were rewarded? What star is God showing you that you need to follow? What will it be like when you find what the star is leading you to?

Today's reading - Psalms 126-130

Life Matter - God's Favor

"Lord, do good to those who are good,
    to those who are upright in heart.
But those who turn to crooked ways
    the Lord will banish with the evildoers" - Psalm 125:4-5.

The words of the psalmist in these verses is vaguely reminiscent of the words the angels said to the shepherds on the night Jesus was born: "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests"' (Luke 2:14). The Lord's favor was on Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, and the Magi, who were all upright in heart, while God relegated evil Herod to irrelevance, after he tried everything possible to destroy Jesus, who he perceived (correctly) was a rival to his throne. Part of God's favor is His guidance, and on one hand, God showed each character in the Christmas story exactly what they were supposed to do through the shepherd's angels, Caesar's decree for a census, Joseph's dreams, and the Magi's star. On the other hand, Herod rejected God's directive to worship Jesus, and instead tried to wipe Him out. Are you obeying God's guidance through the means He has chosen to use? What does God's favor on your life mean to you? Take some time to read the Christmas story in Luke 2 and Matthew 1 and 2 today, looking for examples of God's favor that you can apply to your life right now.

Today's reading - Psalms 121-125

Life Matter - Family Joy

"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. From the house of the Lord we bless you. The Lord is God, and he has made his light shine on us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar" - Psalm 118:26-27.

This is the time of year to celebrate and rejoice, just as all heaven and nature sang to announce the birth of Christ. Rejoicing was a common flavor in almost all the Old Testament feasts and holy days as described in the Lord's directions for families when they assembled together to celebrate: "Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice. And do not neglect the Levites living in your towns, for they have no allotment or inheritance of their own" (Deuteronomy 14:26-27). Notice that God commanded them to feast, and the feast included "wine or fermented drink." The most important thing was that the people were to rejoice as families, and also to share their joy and provision with the priests who were serving among them. Why do you think the Lord commanded His people to feast and rejoice? Are you rejoicing and feasting with God as your focus? Are you sharing with your spiritual leaders as you celebrate? Give some thought to the necessity of joy as part of your walk with the Lord as a family, and see what else you can do this holiday season to let the good times roll.

Today's reading - Psalms 116-120

Life Matter - Seated on High

"The Lord is exalted over all the nations, his glory above the heavens. Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth?" - Psalm 113:4-6.

The Lord is exalted high above all things, which means He oversees them, and His people are also seated with Him in that lofty position. Jesus summed up their situation and status well when He said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place" (John 18:36). That means God's people should be involved in politics, business, and social work, but they should not take their identify or give their allegiance to any of those--in them but above them at the same time. Paul described the posture of God's people when he wrote, "And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:6-7). Are you seated on high with a heavenly view of the things of earth, or are you immersed in this life to the extent that it robs you of your heavenly peace? Do you love this world so much that it waters down and affects your commitment to the Church and His people?

Today's reading - Psalms 111-115

Life Matter - Getting and Giving Mercy

"Some became fools through their rebellious ways
    and suffered affliction because of their iniquities.
They loathed all food
    and drew near the gates of death.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he saved them from their distress" - Psalm 107:17-19.

There are times when you mess up, and then reap the consequences of your actions financially, relationally, professionally and spiritually. Those consequences can be serious, but the Lord is merciful and will listen to your cries for help, if you are not proud and choose to humble yourself to ask for forgiveness and assistance. You don't deserve His help, bu,t that's where mercy comes in, for mercy is not getting what you deserve (and grace is getting what you don't deserve). Once you have received mercy, the best thing to do is to extend that same mercy to someone else, as Jesus made clear in His parable on forgiveness: "Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart" (Matthew 18:32-35). Do you need to humble yourself and ask for God's mercy for something you have done? Do you need to extend mercy to someone and forgive them for what they have done to you?

Today's reading - Psalms 106-110