Sometimes we do things we regret. That was certainly the case for David before he wrote Psalm 86. In II Samuel 11 we read about David’s regrets…mistakes…sins—adultery, deception and conspiracy to murder. That’s a lot to feel bad about. So, when in Psalm 86:11 David prays that the Lord would teach him how to live, it is an earnest prayer. He wants to be wholeheartedly committed to God. The King James Version uses the term “unite my heart”. In the New International Version, David prays for an “undivided heart”. He realizes that if his heart isn’t entirely focused on God, he will go down the wrong path, but he also sees that he needs God’s help to do it. He knows that what is impossible for humans is possible for God. (Luke 18:27)
His vow, in Psalm 86:12, to praise God forevermore, is also sincere. His reason is shown in Psalm 86:13. David knows that what he has done is deserving of death, but God in His great mercy has forgiven him. God is deserving of our praise simply because He is God, but His love and mercy toward David provided so much more motivation. David vowed not only to praise God, but to do it with enthusiasm, and to do it forever.
It is likely that most of the people reading this have not sinned to the same degree that David did in the case of Bathsheba and Uriah. But even the most noble among us are dependent on God’s grace to save us. We cannot save ourselves. (Ephesians 2:4-9)
God wants us all to be completely devoted to Him. He wants us to ask for His help to live the way we should. He is ready and willing to give it, along with His grace, mercy, love and forgiveness. He has provided His Word so that we can learn more about His ways, but it takes commitment. We need to choose each day to put Him first, to praise Him and to give Him the glory.
Something I said in my last blog post (John 1:14, January 7) inspired me to look up Colossians 3:23-24. My question from the passage in John was how would it change your life if Jesus moved in next door? Colossians 3:23 tells us that it doesn’t matter what we are doing, or what human person asked us to do it, we are really working for God.
From the previous verse we see that this passage refers to slaves working for their masters, but in today’s context the principle would apply just as well to employees, children and students. How do you react when your boss asks you to do something that isn’t technically in your job description, or you feel is beneath you? What is a child’s usual response when asked to clean his room? What about students who let other members of the group carry the load on a group project? Would it make a difference if Jesus had asked you to do it? It’s true; your boss’ motives may not be as pure, selfless and forward-thinking as Jesus’ are, but her authority still needs to be respected.
Verse 23 also tells us to work with enthusiasm. The King James version uses the term heartily; the original Greek means from the soul. Now think about this for a minute. When you are doing the dishes or the laundry or taking out the trash, are you doing it with enthusiasm? These are not the most glamourous tasks, but they deserve the best of your ability. They may seem like thankless jobs, because there’s a good chance that no one ever says thank you for doing them, but the Lord will reward you. When you are working for Him, what others think won’t matter to you.
You may not get a raise or promotion by working those overtime hours when your boss asks you to at the last minute. You may not get an A on that group assignment, or a bonus in your allowance for cleaning up your room. Earthly rewards are not always fair or reliable. Sometimes you get praise for what others have done, and sometimes you don’t get the praise you deserve. Sometimes it seems like your efforts are quickly forgotten. God doesn’t forget. Your reward from God will not be based on the amount of talent you have, or how popular you are, or how much money you earned. The reward He gives you will be for your attitude and your faithfulness. Did you give God your very best effort? Jesus will be doing your final performance review; are you ready?
Today’s verse continues the theme in my last post (January 5, 2011) from John 1:1, where we learned that Jesus was referred to as the Word. After John 1:14, John no longer uses the term Word to refer to Christ, perhaps because this is where John tells us that Christ became a man and took up residence on earth. This is an incredible thought. Think about it. What in this plan could be of benefit to Jesus? He gave up every good thing to come to earth, not to live in a palace with all the blessings of great riches, but to live the life of a nomad, one who was pursued by both the most needy people and the self-righteous haters of the day. The term that is here translated as “took up residence” comes from a Greek term that means to pitch a tent. He left heaven to live in very lowly conditions for us. He did this because He loved us. He did this because He knew it was part of the bigger plan, the one that the Father has to redeem us.
So, there was Jesus, the only Son of the Father, living among the people. The Message paraphrase of this passage says that He “moved into the neighbourhood”. How would that change your life if Jesus moved in next door? What if he moved in to your spare room, and joined you at your dinner table, or more significantly on your sofa as you watched TV? Would you do things differently? Many people of that time didn’t recognize Him as God, just as many people today don’t. But He is still here with us today, no longer in flesh but in Spirit. He is there with you at your dinner table, while you watch TV, while you surf the Internet. And He still loves us just as much as He did when He put on flesh to walk among us. Amazing!
Jesus is referred to as the only Son of God, unique because He is in fact God. When we receive His gift of grace, we also become children of God. (John 1:12) We are adopted into the family. God the Father has just as much love for us as He does for Jesus. Because of Jesus, John and others of his day were able to see God’s glory, His grace and truth. Jesus was the personal revelation of God. He still is today. He still represents the goodness and love and light and life of our Heavenly Father.
When I was young I had trouble understanding John 1:1. I didn’t really get what word was with God. Finally I figured out that “Word” represents Christ. It makes so much more sense now. Christ has been with God since the beginning; He is with God, equal to God, and is in fact God. It is interesting that this verse begins in the same way as the account of creation, but Genesis 1:1 goes forward from that point and tells us of creation. John 1:1 goes back from that point and tells us that Christ existed with God before God created the universe. Ah, but you might say, “Wait a minute! Didn’t Christ come as a baby, born in Bethlehem, in a manger? Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?” Well, yes, but that is exactly what helps us to figure out the “word” part. Why did John call Christ the “Word”? Christ is God’s representation of Himself to humanity. Christ is how God chose to reveal Himself to us. Christ came not only to redeem us and bring us salvation, but He came to show us the Father and how much He loves us. So God has given us His word in two ways—through His son, and through the words of the Holy Scriptures. The latter will help us to know the former, and both will help us to know the Father for Jesus says in John 10:30, “The Father and I are one.” That’s all the more reason for us to look at Memos From God together.
Now that I’ve committed to studying the messages that God sends to us, the next question is where to start. The first thing that came into my mind was, “In the beginning…”. I know of two verses in the Bible that start that way: Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1. I will look at Genesis today and John in the next post.
As I see it, Genesis 1 is the whole basis for faith. If we don’t believe that God created the universe, and us, there would be no reason to believe anything else in the Bible, or that we have any relationship to God, let alone that we could have a relationship with Him. Conversely, if we do believe that God is the creator of the universe, it allows us to believe that He is all-powerful, and therefore we can have confidence in what follows in the rest of the Bible.
Interestingly, the account of creation assumes the existence of God; it doesn’t try to prove it. It is more concerned with telling us who created the earth and everything in it than with how it was done, or how long it took. There is no exhaustive explanation of creation, so whatever you believe requires faith. Not understanding how it happened actually makes it easier for me to believe that a higher power was involved.
The reassuring fact here is that we didn’t happen by accident. God chose to create us, and He chooses to have a relationship with us. From the very beginning God has been involved with His creation. He interacted with Adam and Eve, and He gave them freedom. They had the choice to accept or reject God, to follow Him or not. He interacts with us today, and gives us the same freedom. We can choose to accept or reject God, to follow Him or not.
I would like to invite you to join me on a journey. This year I am going to look at the Bible in a new way. Rather than seeing the Bible as a book or a collection of letters, I am going to choose single verses or short passages and look at them as if they are memos from God. What can I learn from these passages that will make my life better or make me a better person? The Bible says in II Timothy 3:16,17 that all scripture comes directly from God. If we believe that God is perfect and all-powerful, then it is easy to believe that His Word is true. But even if we don’t, there are still valuable principles that can be learned from it. Those verses go on to say that from scripture we can learn what we should believe, what we should not believe, what we should not do and what we should do. We are told that a person dedicated to God will be equipped for every good work. If we get the right teaching and apply it to our lives, it will lead to doing the right things. That sounds like a good goal to me, and I think it’s worth a try. I would love to have you join me. If there are topics or verses that you want to know more about, feel free to make suggestions. I make no guarantee that I will be able to provide you with the answers you need, but I promise to consider your suggestions and welcome your feedback. Perhaps we can help each other to make 2011 the best year ever. Happy New Year!