Delight In the Word – Part 4

Joy Is Hopeful

I long for Your salvation, O LORD, And Your law is my delight – Psalm 119:174

While I can’t pin down a percentage, I maintain a large part of joy is hope. When people are hopeless, they lose joy.

The psalmist longs for God’s salvation. We are left to draw our own conclusions about exactly what he was referring to with the phrase “Your salvation,” but it is reasonable to conclude he needed some form of deliverance, help, or rescue.

While he is longing for some form of divine intervention, he clearly knows the solution to his situation comes from God. Salvation is only found in Him. He is looking in the right direction to find answers and as long as he looks that way, he remains hopeful.

His longing is directed to God and His Word. He says he delights in God’s Word and that delight is what gives him hope. He longs for God to act and he knows that God acts through His Word.

To my wife and I, the concept of people feeling hopeless and losing joy hits close to us. Back in the summer of 2013, our youngest daughter took her own life. Getting that phone call late on a Tuesday afternoon changed our lives. While it’s a long story, the bottom-line is she lost hope. Through years of a serious illness, bad choices, and soured relationships, things had turned so poorly in her life she saw no deliverance to her situation.

Faced with what she perceived as no way to redeem and rescue her situation, she took what she thought was her only option. There were plenty of other options, but without hope, she had no joy and saw no resolution to her problem. Without hope, her view of reality was distorted. It’s a tragedy of epic proportions. I expect my wife and I will bear the scars of her decision for the rest of our lives.

Hopelessness not only robs your joy, but it warps your worldview. While our daughter’s situation may be extreme, it isn’t uncommon. Many people go through life hopeless, devoid of joy, and have a warped sense of reality.

The psalmist is not ignoring his situation. His situation might be desperate and it might have existed that way for a long time. This longing he mentions is hard and it may take considerable patience. But he knows his rescue is coming from God and even in his longing, he delights in the Scriptures.

It’s important when we are facing adversity of any sort, to keep ourselves in the Word.    This act of commitment to the Bible will bring us joy. Maybe not all at once, but the Word produces hope, which in turn, brings joy.

Blessings My Friend

-jm

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Delight In the Word – Part 3

Joy Is A Treasure

I rejoice at Your word as one who finds great treasure. – Psalm 119:162

How have you felt when you found something of significant worth?  How would you feel if you found some buried treasure? Here in Psalm 119:162, the psalmist also found some treasure.

Not only did he find treasure but he uses the descriptive term “great” treasure.  Something he sees as having a high value.

Think about how the concepts of “value” and “joy” are related in other areas of our life.  When I say “I value” something, I am not necessarily thinking “expensive” or “costly.”  But I’m speaking of what I treasure.  Many of those things also bring me joy.

Family heirlooms are often things we treasure.  They may not be worth much on a monetary scale, but because of a connection with people, places, or time periods which we look fondly upon, we value them.

I have a dining room table and six chairs which were owned by my paternal grandparents.  As the story has been told to me, they bought this table and chairs, used, in the late 1930’s.

My grandfather was not a man who cared much about how anything looked.  He wanted functionality.  Therefore, there are a variety of “customizations” done by his hand to the table and all six chairs.  Those customizations made the table practical in my grandfather’s way of thinking, but they rendered the table of little monetary value in the eyes of antique furniture dealers 60 years later.

But I don’t care.  This table has great value to me. Why? Because I have such pleasurable memories of him and my grandmother around this table, I don’t care what any expert says about its worth.

They had such a small kitchen that my grandmother had to do most of her food prep work in the dining room.  As a kid, I can remember going to my grandparents’ house (they lived right beside us) and seeing my grandmother rolling out dough for pies she was making.  I can remember her cutting dough into strips to make her special homemade noodles on that table.

I also remember the times when I was sitting to the immediate right of my grandfather for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner listening to his stories.  Since he was a coal miner during the Great Depression, he had plenty of stories.  For a man who had only an eighth grade education, I am still amazed at the wealth of information he acquired over the years.

I loved my grandparents and they loved me.  This table helps me remember them and is a tangible reminder of great times with my grandparents. It is a connection with them as they both passed away years ago.  It’s a treasure of mine and just thinking about this table, brings me joy.

This is how the psalmist is describing his relationship with God’s Word.  Because he values it so highly, treasures it so deeply, it brings him joy.

The questions for you is, do you treasure the Word?  Do you value it so highly that it brings you joy?

Blessings My Friend!

-jm

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Delight In the Word – Part 2

Joy Is Consistent

Trouble and anguish have over taken me, yet Your commandments are my delights. – Psalm 119:143 (NKJV)

Happiness is based on our current surroundings, emotions, and a wealth of other factors. We like being happy and therefore chase it with almost reckless abandon.

It is pursued through achievement and financial status. Some feel they will only find happiness when they see success in their chosen field. Some chase it through alcohol or illicit sexual conquests. Many look to relationships as being the source of happiness. Few really find happiness. Our world is full of very unhappy people and sadly, many are found in our churches.

Joy however, is a different quality. Here the psalmist makes a claim about “delight” even in the midst of seriously troubled times. The psalmist is not ignoring his difficulties. He is right up front with an honest assessment of his condition. “Trouble and anguish” are not pleasant terms to have attached to you. While we don’t know the difficulties he faced, we can correctly assume this was not a simple setback or a bad day. He was experiencing a serious set of problems. While we fight against it, trouble is a common companion for many of us. Jesus said we would in fact have trouble. In John 16:33, he says:

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. – John 16:33 NIV

The NKJV and the ESV use the word “tribulation.” This is a serious time of stress, oppression, and quite possibly persecution. It amazes me that He is telling His disciples, His followers, they will experience troubles.

The psalmist claims, even though he is going through trouble and anguish, he still delights in God’s Word. He is consistent.

It is easy to trust God and delight in His Word when everything in life is going well. On the other hand, when our situation is difficult, when our financial situation is tenuous, or when we’ve just received a bad report from a doctor, those are situations where we may not “feel” happy. But we can still delight in His Word.

In times of struggle and in times of ease, we need to delight in His Word. In times of despair and times of exhilaration, we need to focus on the Bible and find joy in His Word. Experiencing joy consistently means putting His Word ahead of our feelings, emotions, and current circumstances.

Joy is consistent. Those times of trouble and anguish do not negate one from delighting in the Scriptures. Meanwhile, good and celebratory times do not give one an excuse to ignore them.

Blessing My Friend!

-jm

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Delight In The Word – Part 1

Joy Is Active

Your testimonies I have taken as a heritage forever.  For they are the rejoicing of my heart.

           – Psalm 119:111

 There are no less than 11 verses in Psalm 119 where the psalmist mentions joy, rejoice or delight. Most of us think of joy as nothing more than an emotion. While there are emotional elements within joy, from verse 111 we can see there is more to joy than just a passive feeling.

The term “heritage” is crucial for understanding this verse. We think of heritage as something we are born with, given to us by our ancestors which we did nothing to acquire. This is not the full concept of the term. It is more of the idea of “taking possession” or “ownership” of something which is rightfully yours, but not given to you. It requires some effort on a person’s part to gain possession.

Hence the psalmist says he has “taken” God’s testimonies as his “heritage forever.” This implies at some point in time, though God’s testimonies were available to him, he was not in possession of them and he was determined to gain them.

While I normally ascribe to the Biblical Interpretation theory that the literal reading of the text is probably the most accurate, I doubt the psalmist means he previously didn’t own any Scripture and now that he does, he’ll never let it go. Rather, I think he is trying to communicate he has made the Word more than just an object. The testimonies referenced here have a deep, personal connection to him. At some point previously, he took action to make the Word his and began to see the Word as more than just a written document. He saw it as having personal importance to him in a spiritual way.

I love the description the author of Hebrews uses about God’s Word. He states:

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

– Hebrews 4:12

 God’s Word is different than any other document. It is described as “living and powerful” and as the psalmist writes, you can claim it as your own possession.

This is such a unique property of Scripture. While it was written thousands of years ago, it still speaks to us today. It is not just a collection of writings by some long dead civilization, but it is relevant to us in the 21st century.

However, you need to take possession of it, claim the promises of the Word, and act on them.

Joy is active. Waiting around to serve God because your circumstances are less than ideal, does not demonstrate joy.

Blessing My Friend

-jm

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Mary Did Know

Many Christmas songs elicit images and emotions of peace and tranquility.  Some may find comfort and encouragement from classic Christmas songs and often these songs bring back cherished memories.  Christmas songs serve that purpose well and I too have come to appreciate many classic Christmas carols.  God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman and Silent Night are probably my most favorite Christmas songs.

But unfortunately, often the accuracy of these songs as compared to the biblical narrative is considerably off target.  Many times the actually text has taken a back seat to meter, rhyme and the desire to creative those “feel good images.”

For example, We Three Kings is woefully unbiblical.  The Magi weren’t ‘kings’ and they weren’t from the “orient.”  We don’t even know if there were “three” but it’s a nice song.

There is no Little Drummer Boy in the Nativity scene.  This too is a cute idea, but I wonder how many people think the song is based off the bible?

And speaking of Nativity scenes, the bible never mentions anything about camel and sheep being there.  With shepherds present after His birth, sheep are a logical addition, but camels?  Probably not.

Over the past decade one relatively popular Christmas song has been Mary Did You Know?  It’s a peaceful, thoughtful song posing a series of questions to Mary asking her if she knew who the Child really was as she carried, birthed and raised Him.  While this may be an interesting question and for those who don’t know the actually story of Luke chapter 1, many jump to conclusions based on what Mary thought about the Child.  The problem is, Scripture is quite clear on what she thought.  She knew who He was.

In Luke 1, the angel who informs Mary of her impending pregnancy tell her quite plainly:

He would be great – vs 32

He would be called the Son of the Most High – vs32

God would give Him the throne of David – vs 32

He would reign forever – vs 33

He would be the Holy One – vs 35

He would be born of a virgin – vs 35

He would be called the Son of God – vs 35

Mary seems to perfectly understand all this when she responds in verse 47 that He (her Child) would be her Savior.  Finally she states that all future generations would call her blessed in verse 48.  In fact Mary’s discourse on who Jesus is might be one of the most beautiful and complete passages in the entire bible (Luke 1:46-55) regarding the message and mission of Jesus – the Child she was carrying.

So, as the song goes;

Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy would save our sons and daughters?
Did you know
that your Baby Boy has come to make you new?
This Child that you delivered will soon deliver you.

and

Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy would one day rule the nations?
Did you know
that your Baby Boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?

 

Mary’s answer to these questions is, “Why yes, I did know.  The angel plainly told me and I indicated I knew.  It’s written down for you in Luke chapter 1.”

There is nothing wrong with the song and I have no direct issue with it.  My problem arises from the fact that in our modern culture many Christians are so biblically illiterate that they don’t know that Mary did know!

If you love this song, go ahead and sing it.  Just don’t get your theology from this song.  Or We Three Kings or The Little Drummer Boy.

Mary knew who He was.  Do you?

Many Christmas Blessing My Friend!

-jm

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Worship

I have been spending time pondering the meaning of worship lately.  The concept of worship seems so simple; humans have worshiped since the dawn of time.  Virtually every society, from the most primitive to our ultra-modern culture, worship something.

But what does it mean for believers in Jesus to worship?

We throw that term around in a variety of ways.  When we talk about our church attendance we’ll say, “I went to worship today.”  Or maybe we are describing a portion of the service and state, “our time of worship was very good.”

I’ve been struck by the use of the term in Matthew 2:2.  The magi come to Jerusalem following the appearance of the star and state, “Where is He who is born King of the Jews?  We’ve seen His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”  These men traveled a considerable distance and presented expensive gifts to a young child they had never met, nor had any discernible relationship with His parents.  Yet they still came and worshiped Him.  I wonder, did they get anything out of it?

The magi gave.  They came to the Child to worship Him.  To honor Him. To submit to Him.  To give allegiance to Him.  They weren’t there to sing or hear something that made them feel good.  They were there for Him.

How often have we violated that simple point?

I have been convicted that our time we call “worship” so often isn’t worship because we’ve made it about us and not Him.  What we refer to worship is the time we expect to be entertained.   We want to participate in that entertainment.  We tend to make it about us.  But it’s not supposed to be.  Worship is about Him.

So now I have to ask the question, do you worship?

See I’m beginning to think we need to come to Him expecting nothing in return.  We need to be there just reverently submitting to Him.

“Where is He born King of the Jews?  We’ve seen His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”  This needs to be our driving motivation.  To worship Him and not just to be entertained by a service.

Blessings My Friend

jm

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Your Word Above Your Name

I will worship toward Your holy temple, And praise Your name For Your lovingkindness and Your truth; For You have magnified Your word above all Your name. – Psalm 138:2 NKJV

How important is the Bible to you?  How important do you think it is to understand it?  Is reading and studying the Bible a worthwhile endeavor for you?  Is it worth your time?

I ask these questions because of a disturbing thing I have recently observed.

Too many people attending our churches spend almost zero time in the Bible.  Some might read a 300 word on-line devotional, but even those people are the minority.  What’s worse is many of these same people either grew up in a church or even attended a Christian college or university.  They attend church (mostly) and enjoy worshiping on Sunday mornings.  Yet they spend very little time in the Word.

My guess is most of those afore-mention church attendees would be highly offended if a pastor or church leader used curse words, especially if they were uttered from the platform.  This verse of Psalm 138 is just one of many verses that tell us how important His Word is.  It takes a higher position than even His own name.

One of the reasons why biblical illiteracy has occurred is the lack of church leaders pushing, encouraging and teaching their attendees about the importance of daily Bible reading/study.  Or, even discouraging the practice of that spiritual discipline.

Recently I was reading from Christian blog site I often peruse and I found an article with a catchy title that I assumed as satirical.  Sadly, it wasn’t.  Here is just one of the quotes from the piece;

Christians are wasting precious time excessively “studying the Bible” in groups and feeling quite content that if they’re practicing the “spiritual disciplines” at home that they’ve done their duty and can call it a day.  The modern-day church places a ridiculous amount of emphasis on studying the Bible.

What’s worse is the author is a pastor.  He leads a very large church in a large city.  At first I was mad at reading the article but quickly I became sad.  There are literally thousands of people sitting under this man who are being taught that Bible study isn’t important.  He further said;

It’s obvious, from historical observation alone, that one can be a sold-out, fully devout, willing to die a martyr’s death follower of Jesus and spend next to no time practicing the spiritual discipline of Bible study.

I would highly disagree with his statement.  I don’t see how someone could be a “sold out…follower of Jesus” and not spend serious time in His Word.

This is Paul’s admonition to Timothy about what pastors are supposed to do with those they are leading;

Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;  and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. – 2 Timothy 4:2-4 NKJV

Bible study is NEVER a waste of time.  EVER.  If you desire to be a follower of Jesus, if you want to have a “walk worthy of the LORD, fully pleasing Him” (Colossians 1:10), you must be in His Word.  It is through His Word that we able to hear His voice.  It is through His Word we are able to understand the world around us from a spiritual perspective.  It is through His Word we are able to know of who we are and who God has called us to be.

God thinks highly of His Word – and so should we.

In His Service,

Jeff Millslagle

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