Sometimes we look for something to pray about. Opportunities and needs abound if we could only identify them. A prayer with a purpose is a prayer with real direction. So here’s a topic that meets all three of these areas. Continue reading
Three times in his opening statement, young Elihu talks about “what I know” Job 32.6, 10, 17. He could hardly wait for the three older friends of Job to stop talking. They failed to convince Job of his sin, and now he’s sure he can do it. He’s going to “explain” it to them. Continue reading
My heart is overflowing with thanksgiving as Douglas and I approach next weekend when we will celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary.
The Bible says “life is a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” That is the way we feel as we look back on our married years, or even our life in general. I imagine that you feel the same way if you are in the older generation. It may be that you, like I, wonder how Christmas has “slipped up” on us so fast. It seems it comes earlier and earlier every year. A day, a month, a year, yea even a lifetime, is like a vapor that appears for a little while and then “whoosh” and it is gone.
We hear people say, “Oh, if I had my life to live over, I would do so and so,” or “If I could go back…” But we can’t go back. There is no redoing life. It is a one-time shot, and we have to give it our best to gain the best life here and in the life to come.
So what would I suggest for a person looking at the beginning of their life? Let me think… Continue reading
Jesus Christ said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:14 NKJV). When children were brought to Jesus “He took them up in His arms, put His hands on them, and blessed them” (Mark 10:16 NKJV). If “child abuse” is doing something wrong to children, then what about parents who abuse their child’s heart and soul by setting bad examples of: drug & alcohol abuse, disregarding marriage with their dating and divorce, smoking and spitting tobacco, filthy language, and immoral television programs and movies? If “child neglect” is not doing what is right to children, then what about parents who keep their children from Jesus Christ and His Christian followers? “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth” (Ecclesiastes 12:1 NKJV).
This is Johnny Polk, with “Words of Wisdom” brought to you by the Oneida church of Christ.
We have already, in our JG studies, considered the characteristic of cooperation or interdependence. This is the quality of being a team player so that others can count on you and of having confidence in other faithful brethren so that you can count on them. There are so many ways that we need each other. We need brethren to help us when we are overtaken in a fault (Galatians 6:1). We need help with our overburdens (Galatians 6:2). We need elders to watch for our souls (Hebrews 13:17) We need to provoke one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24). We need to be examples to one another (1 Corinthians 11:1).
Yet, at the same time that we keep a cooperative spirit, we must be ready to stand alone, to act for God even if no one else will. That is what the characteristic of independence is about. We will not stand before God in judgment as a family or congregation. We will stand as individuals. In this life, we must independently follow God.
By independence, I also do not mean independent from God. Anytime we work without God properly in the picture, we are lost. The psalmist said, “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build it” (Psalm 127:1). God wants us to depend upon him (Hebrews 4:16; 2 Corinthians 12:9). Independence, rather than acting apart from God, is the choice to work for God by obeying Him and living for Him even when others neglect to be obedient (Hebrews 2:3).
Many times we are moved by peer pressure to compromise our beliefs. Sometimes extra pressure is brought to bear to intentionally ignore some principle we know is true. And, it is especially true that in many congregations there are no comprehensive plans that will involve every member of the congregation in the work. We, must learn to be active for the Lord and strong for the Lord regardless of whether we are part of a congregational program or not.
Consider some people who were independent in their actions for an example to us. Consider the
independent action of Joseph recorded in Genesis 38-39. Hated by his brothers and enslaved, he still rejected the seduction of Potiphar’s wife. He still dealt honestly with his master. After being imprisoned, he did not sour on God and think that he was not taking care of Him. Rather, his continued integrity kept him in both God’s favor and that of the prison keeper.
I love the story of Micaiah in 1 Kings 22. When Ahab sent for him after hearing all his prophets tell him he would be successful in taking Ramoth-Gilead. Ahab desperately wanted Jehoshaphat to go with him to war, so the messenger sent to fetch Micaiah told Micaiah to agree with the other prophets. Micaiah’s answer will always be classic, “As the Lord liveth, what the Lord sayeth unto me, that will I speak” (1 Kings 22:14).
I also believe that Jonathan was a man of independent action for God. Read 1 Samuel 14:1-14. Israel was at battle with the Philistines. Jonathan, while the army was at rest decided to take the battle to the Philistines. His words to the armor bearer in verse 6 are the words of one who depends on God and acts even when others are not.
And I especially love two passages in the book of Acts that speak of independent action on the part of many of the first century Christians. In Acts 8:1-4, after the death of Stephen, the disciples went everywhere preaching the word, but the apostles were not in the number. In Ephesus, Paul was daily, for about two years, disputing in the school of Tyrannus, but all Asia heard the word. In both of these cases, there was no program led by elders, no full time preacher going to every place, just disciples, men and women, acting independently to take the Lord to the world.
Brothers and sisters, God has given us all we can do if we will. No program is needed. No leadership is essential to my salvation.
- I can follow God.
- I can make a point of doing good for people so their heart will be opened.
- I can pray in depth for those I know.
- I can continuously ask others for studies.
- I can learn the Bible well with diligence.
- I can try to save erring brothers and sisters.
- I can be hospitable.
- I can qualify myself to teach or serve some other way.
There is never a time when every member could not fully employ his time in the Lord’s work where he or she is.We must do our own work and stand before God alone.
There is uncertainty regarding the author, time, or circumstances of these Psalms, but it is apparent Psalms 120-134 work together, and are called the “Songs of Degrees,” and sometimes “Songs of Ascension.”
Verses 1-4 mention scars from youth while prevailing;
Verses 5-8 describe uselessness in life for God’s enemies.
Verses 1-4: (Verses 1-2) The “afflictions” from “youth” are what shape us as adults. Since this appeal is for “Israel” to say this seems to indicate the “afflictions” were what was happening to them in Egypt when they started as a nation (Exodus 1:8-14). Much later, God said: “I will give her her vineyards from there, And the Valley of Achor as a door of hope; She shall sing there, As in the days of her youth, As in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt” (Hosea 2:15). Those who did the afflicting “have not prevailed.” (Verse 3) Egyptian slave masters scarred Israelite backs just as if plows had left the scars! (Verse 4) The righteous (upright, responsive to truth) LORD “cut” them free from “the cords of the wicked” (Exodus 2-15).
Verses 5-8: (Verse 5) Leave it in the hands of the LORD. To “hate Zion” in the Old Testament, meant to despise God’s Temple on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, and the Israelites who worshiped there (Psalm 68:16; 87:1-3). The other side of God’s promise to bless His people who obeyed, was that He “will put all these curses on your enemies and on those who hate you, who persecuted you” (Deuteronomy 30:7). (Verses 6-8) This recognition of what God could do to enemies is based upon a frequent practice in the Mid-East, that is, to cover their roofs with dirt, plant grass which grew quickly with rain, but then as quickly dried out before it could be mowed or harvested. In other words, it would be worthless as to its usefulness and quickly forgotten. And the punishment from the LORD for His enemies should include no future blessing because of a good harvest, such as was used in Ruth 2:4. The desire is that God would make enemies suffer because of their own unworthiness.
Thought: When Jesus came, “though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:8-9). It was prophesied of Him: “Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5). He took the scars of sin upon Himself to establish the church of Christ in its youth (Acts 2:22-41; 20:28). Becoming a Christian means casting our sins on Him in repentance (1 Corinthians 6:9-11), and being baptized for salvation from those sins (Acts 18:8; 1 Peter 3:21). Then God will render enemies useless (Proverbs 6:12-15; 1 Timothy 6:3-5).
All Scriptures and comments are based upon the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.
It is fitting that the greatest tribute to the Word of God is IN the Word of God, itself, and is in the longest chapter of the Word of God! This Psalm has no author’s name, historical incident, or other distraction from its theme. It is divided into 22 sections (one for every letter in the Hebrew alphabet), each consisting of 8 lines, each line beginning with the alphabet letter of that section (aleph is the first letter of each line under the aleph section, for instance). The chapter uses some 8-10 different words to describe the Word of God, each bringing something extra to the total picture of the Word of Truth. In order to savor the depth and richness of teaching in this Psalm, we will examine each portion as if it were its own chapter.
Beth: Cleansing One’s Way
Verses 9-12: (Verse 9a) “A young man” who sins can become an old man who sins, so to enjoy our “golden years” we must clean up our act when “young.” “Cleanse” indicates a life that has become “dirty,” not one that needs no clean-up! Also note that each individual is responsible for cleaning up one’s own life, not blame others (parents, teachers, employers, friends, family) for failings. The cleansing comes by: (Verse 9b) “heeding” God’s “word;” (verse 10) whole heartily seeking God; holding to God’s “commandments;” (verse 11) hiding God’s “word” in one’s “heart.” (Verse 11) Hiding God’s Word in our heart simply means we have embedded its teachings in our thinking. God never promises that we cannot sin, but that we will find the continual practice of sin inconsistent with obeying His Word. “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness;” “Whoever abides in Him does not sin;” “Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God” (1 John 3:4, 6, 9). It is impossible for a child of God to consistently practice sin, and at the same time, consistently practice righteousness: “He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked” (1 John 2:6). (Verse 12) God “teaches” through “statutes” (lines showing limits of what is acceptable to God). He is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
Verses 13-16: One who is obedient: (verse 13) cannot keep silent, but vocally teach and acknowledge the “judgments” (right or wrong decisions) from God’s “mouth;” (verse 14) must “rejoice” (be happy with life’s new direction) in God’s “testimonies” (witnesses to God’s character and concern), considering them “riches;” (verse 15) “meditate” (focus upon) on God’s “precepts” (notice or care about one’s conduct); “contemplate” (center attention upon) God’s “ways” (direction); (verse 16) “delight” (take pleasure, leap for joy) in God’s “statutes” (clear lines proscribing what is pleasing to God); making it such a part of one’s thought and conduct will make it impossible to “forget” God’s “word” (language which conveys exactly what God desires us to do.
Thought: Isn’t this exactly what the New Testament shows happened in Acts 2:38-41? “Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.’ 40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, ‘Be saved from this perverse generation.’ 41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.”
All Scriptures and comments are based upon the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.