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The Path of True Blessedness

“Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to Him” (Psalm 128:1). The Bible often speaks about the “fear of the Lord.” That seems odd to us because we often present God as love and loving, someone we want to draw near to, not a being to be feared.

The Bible presents God as awesome, One Who truly inspires awe. As such, the reverence that arises can manifest itself as fear presented with such grandeur. But the psalmist described those who fear the Lord, not as those who feel the emotion of fear, rather they demonstrate their reverence for God by walking in His ways, i.e., obeying Him.

The structure of the verse identifies those who fear God as those walking in His ways. In other words, our obedience to God (i.e., walking in His ways) fulfills the biblical injunction to fear God. It also describes those who fear the Lord, those who walk in His ways as blessed.

The book of Deuteronomy commanded the Israelites, “Fear the Lord your God, serve Him only and take your oaths in His name” (6:13). The structure of this verse, like the above quoted psalm, indicates that we fear God by serving Him. Obedience is how we demonstrate that we fear Him.

Within the language of the Old Testament, “fear of God” was synonymous with “love of God.” The two are often parallel to each other, so if our obedience demonstrates our fear of God, within the context of the Old Testament, our obedience also shows our love of God.

Deuteronomy commanded the children of Israel: “Love the Lord your God and keep His requirements, His decrees, His laws and His commands always” (11:1). We demonstrate our love for God by keeping His commands. We show that we fear God by walking in His ways. The one who does that, the psalmist said is blessed.

PRAYER

Father, today may I walk in Your ways, may I keep Your commandments in everything I do and say. Amen.

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What’s Your Source?

“‘Be appalled at this, you heavens, and shudder with great horror,’ declares the Lord. ‘My people have committed two sins: they have forsaken Me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water’” (Jeremiah 2:12-13). God spoke to the people of Judah through the prophet Jeremiah using an image that they would understand.

Within the land of Israel, water was a necessity of life in heat of the eastern Mediterranean. Rains provided water, but only roughly from November to April. The rest of the year people relied upon springs, rivers, wells, and cisterns. Springs, rivers, and wells provided water coming from the earth, running water, purer water—living water. Cisterns offered merely a pit cut into the rock into which water was diverted. Cisterns simply held water. The inside of a cistern had to be plastered in order to retain the water, so it didn’t seep out. Water that ran into a cistern usually had sediment in it, so as the water collected in the cistern the sediment settled to the bottom of the cistern. Water in cisterns could go bad or be poisoned. The plaster in the cisterns could crack and the cistern was not good anymore. Spring water, living water continued to give life wherever it flowed.

Traveling through the land of Israel, even in its deserts, one can see the effect of water. Wherever living water flows, there is life and vegetation. Where there is not water, the dryness of the desert encroaches. This was the reality of the person living in the time of Jeremiah.

Jeremiah knew a thing or two about cisterns because his hometown, Anatoth, did not have a natural source of water. Water had to be brought to the village and gathered in cisterns. His village sat on the edge of the dry wilderness to the northeast of Jerusalem, so the prophet understood the metaphor he used.

He compared Judah’s disobedience by pursuing other gods, rejecting the God of Israel to those preferring cistern water, broken cisterns at that, to living, life-giving water. By choosing other gods, Judah forsook God, the source of living water.

Do we see God as the source of life and life-giving water in our lives? Are we like the people of Judah rejecting spring water, for a poor substitute, which, in fact, is no substitute at all? In our attempts to “go our own way,” do we fail to connect with the source of life in our lives? The thing about substitutes is that they fail us in the end. The people of Judah poignantly understood Jeremiah’s metaphor; they caught his meaning—you have rejected life-giving water, for something that cannot hold water. Do we do the same?

PRAYER

Father, today, I choose to follow, obey, and pursue You, the source of life and life-giving water in my life. Bring life into the dry places of my life, for Your glory. Amen.

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The Law of Christ

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2). How do we obey Jesus and fulfil what He commanded us? According to Paul, we bear one another’s burdens. It’s that simple.

Some today have taken to calling themselves “Christ followers” or “disciples.” Jesus said in John’s Gospel, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (13:35). The evidence of our discipleship or following Jesus, according to Him, depends solely upon how we love one another, how we bear one another’s burdens.

To bear someone’s burden requires us to walk alongside them. To be a part of their life. To operate out of love, so that a person will even feel comfortable sharing what weighs him or her down. It’s not a relationship that can be formed in our Sunday services or even in our small groups. It only materializes when I place myself in another’s life and demonstrate genuine love and concern.

The law of Christ flies in the face of our me-first, fast paced, hectic, and busy culture. But if we are not going to actively, daily seek to fulfill His command to love one another (John 15:17), then can we truly call ourselves “Christ followers” or His disciples? Do we take time in our day truly to see the people around us, their pain, their struggles? Are we moved with compassion for those we see?

Bearing one another’s burdens is not only to get people to think and believe like us; and, it’s not something we reserve for those we feel comfortable with. Jesus challenged the man who asked Him, “Who is my neighbor” (Luke 10:29) with “Go be the neighbor” (Luke 10:37). The testimony of being Jesus’ disciple is not helping those who are like you (see Matt. 5:46-47); rather, loving everyone and seeking to bear their burdens (Matt. 5:43-45). How badly do we want to be disciples of the Lord? Then, we must do what He commanded; we must love one another. This is the mark of discipleship.

PRAYER

Father help me to see those around me today as You do. May my heart be moved with compassion to bear their burdens for Your glory. Amen.

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What Motivates You?

“Two things I ask of You, Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown You and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God” (Prov. 30:7-9). These words of Agur (see Prov. 30:1) display a heart motivated by a desire to please God, as well as someone who recognizes how life’s circumstances impact, or have the potential to impact, our relationship with God.

Agur sought to live his life pleasing to the Lord, keeping away from lies and falsehood. He asked merely that God provide the needs of his daily sustenance. He recognized the inherent problem with riches, as well as the potential threat poverty had upon his character. He ultimately was motivated by a desire to live his life, even in the common and ordinary, in a way to please God and bring honor to His name.

What motivates you? Do you recognize the potential for the cares and pleasures of life (Luke 8:14), as well as your actions to impact your relationship with God?

Our pursuits have the potential to push God to the edges of our lives. Having too much, can lead us to a level of self-reliance that we ask, “Who is the Lord?” Too little, can cause us to behave in an unscrupulous manner, which in turn will profane the name of the Lord. Can we live in a balance? Not too much, and not too little; rather, looking to the Lord as the source of our daily bread. Does the honor of His name and of our need for Him, motivate us in the choices we make and the things we pursue?

Agur understood that God provided the source of his life, and he did not want anything in his life to detract him or separate him from that reality and realization. In our fast-paced, self-centered world that pursues personal fulfillment, that offers a very different, and peaceful perspective.

PRAYER

Father, keep lies and false words far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but provide me with my daily bread, lest, having too much, I renounce, saying, “Who is the Lord?” Or, being impoverished, I steal and profane the name of my God. Amen.

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Daily Bread

When the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness, God provided for their daily sustenance by giving them manna: “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day” (Exodus 16:4). They could only gather enough for each day, except on the sixth day they gathered a double portion for that day and the Sabbath (Exodus 16:5). God told Moses that the reason they could only collect enough for the day was “I will test them and see whether they will follow My instructions” (Exodus 16:4).

Before they entered the Promised Land, Moses called them to remember the journey that had brought them there: “Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deut. 8:2-3).

The hardships of the wilderness tested Israel’s commitment and obedience to God, but God still provided daily for their needs and sustenance. But they only received the provisions for that day. He taught them to trust Him.

We live in a world that values the “self-made” person. Our rugged, self-absorbed individualism flies in the face of biblical spirituality. God’s actions in the Bible repeatedly remind His people of their need and dependence upon Him. He is the giver and sustainer of life. He provides our daily bread.

If we let it, our world, with its busyness, anxiety, and worry about tomorrow, pushes God to the edges of our lives. We seek to be self-reliant planning for tomorrow because tomorrow depends upon us—or so we think. The message of the manna screams to us: God is the source of your daily provision; He takes care of you. Our responsibility: follow His instructions.

Do we only turn to God when we need something from Him? Do we see Him as the One who delivers us when we’re in a bind? Or, do we recognize Him as the source of our daily bread? Do we daily remind ourselves that He provides the things we need for our daily sustenance, and we are daily to seek to obey His instructions? Have we learned the lessons of the hardships of the wilderness?

PRAYER

Father, thank You for providing our daily bread. God, You are the source of our life; today, may we endeavor in all things to obey Your instructions. Amen.

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What the Lord Requires of You

As you read the Bible, have you ever felt overwhelmed with everything that’s in it? Do you ever wonder, how can I possibly live this way? If you have, don’t feel bad; you’re not alone. The biblical authors themselves recognized the need to boil things down into their essence. There may be 613 commandments in the Law of Moses, but what really does God want from me?

The prophet Micah sought to summarize what God desires from us: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (6:8). That’s the summary. Now go and do it!

But even that statement is striking, “go and do it.” Micah’s summary did not offer propositions for us to believe, or durations of spiritual activities (i.e., pray for a half-hour, read your Bible for an hour). His instructions focus primarily on how we treat others and then our submission to God. In other words, he focuses upon how we act.

Biblical faith takes the form of active obedience. It is not a series of logical propositions we agree with, or ritual activity that appeases God. It’s obedience to Him, which is usually manifested in how we care for and treat those around us. That is the essence of biblical faith. That is what God desires of us.

When Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment, He responded citing Deuteronomy 6:5, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength,” and added the second is like it, “Love your neighbor who is like yourself” (Matt. 22:37-39; Mark 12:28-31; Luke 10:25-28). His summary of what God wants from us, like Micah, centers on how we treat others and submit to God.

We often make things too complicated. We try to achieve some special spiritual revelation (often attributing that to our heightened spirituality). While the Bible contains a lot of instruction, it expresses the earnest desire to help us clearly understand what God desires. We see this in the words of Micah and Jesus: love God and love others. Do you want to please God? Then, simply, do this!

PRAYER

Father, in everything I say and do, may I be consumed with love for you and those around me. Amen.

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Give Life

“The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence” (Prov. 10:11). Do the things you say, the things you communicate, act as a source of life to people? If not, then we may need to check our hearts. The Bible makes clear that what comes out from our mouth (or in writing too) proceeds from our heart. Jesus said, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34).

The psalmist requests: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable before You, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14). He recognized the connection between what he meditated upon in his heart and the words the proceeded from his mouth. He desired that both will find favor in the eyes of God.

In modern English we metaphorically use the word “heart” to refer to our emotions and feelings; within the world of the Bible, the “heart” represents the “mind” and our cognitive reason. So, for both Jesus and the psalmist, our words reflect what we think about, and from those thoughts come words acceptable or dishonoring to God.

In each of these instances—Proverbs, Jesus, and Psalms—the words referred to pertain to what we say to others, how we speak to people. Our words to others betray the condition of our heart, what we meditate on, and whether or not we truly please God.

Our age of social media has invited everyone to digitally express themselves. Everyone now has a platform to comment about the events of the day and to “give people a piece of their mind.” What do your words say about your heart? Too often people will justify words that dishonor God by appealing to their attempts to defend God. “A source of life is the mouth of the righteous.” Do our words identify us as righteous? Do our words offer a source of life to those around us?

We live at a time when words have been weaponized, even by those claiming to follow God. The Bible is clear: your words tell the tale of your heart. Those who are righteous, their words give life. Give life with your words today.

PRAYER

Father, let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable before You, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen.

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Longing for God

In Psalm 42, the psalmist describes his yearning for God: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God” (v. 1). He imagines a deer thirsty from the heat seeking out the refreshing water of the stream, and he says that he thirsts after God in the same manner. What brought about this yearning in his heart?

We realize upon reading the psalm that the psalmist is not in a great place in his life; in fact, he is being led off into captivity. He comments that his tears have been his sustenance night and day. Those around him look at his circumstances and question, “Where is your God?” (v. 3). In the midst of his present circumstances, he recalls those times of great joy and celebration as he joined the festive crowds traveling to Jerusalem and the Temple (v. 4). His memory of these festive times stands in stark contrast to his current situation where he finds himself in an uproar and downcast. Yet, in the midst of his circumstances he encourages himself to hope in God convinced that he will see the Lord’s salvation (v. 5).

He then proceeds to describe how he feels washed over by his circumstances (v. 7). He feels forgotten by God and oppressed by his enemies (v. 9). Towards the end of the psalm, those around him still mockingly question him, “Where if your God?” (v. 10). His circumstances have not changed.

The striking feature of the psalmist in this psalm is that regardless of his circumstances he never loses sight of who God is—the One who commands His covenant loyalty towards the psalmist, the living God (v. 2), the God of my life (v. 8)—and because he knows who God is, he never despairs that God will eventually right his circumstances (v. 11). In other words, his circumstances never dictate his reality or perception of God. He recognizes that God answers those who cry out to Him. He responds to those who long for him as the thirsty deer does the streams of water.

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by your circumstances? Have you ever felt forgotten by God? Does life and even those around you scream, “Where is your God?” Don’t allow your circumstances to dictate what you know about God. The God of the Bible is the living God. His ear is not deaf to our cries, nor is his arm short to save us. Do we have the confidence to say like the psalmist, “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God” (v. 11)?

PRAYER

Father, my soul thirsts for You as a thirsty deer longs for water. Regardless of my circumstances, You are my rock and my salvation. Amen.

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Learning to Obey

“While Jesus was here on earth, He offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the One who could rescue Him from death. And God heard His prayers because of His deep reverence for God. Even though Jesus was God’s Son, He learned obedience from the things He suffered. In this way, God qualified Him as a perfect High Priest, and He became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:7-9). Jesus learned obedience through what He suffered.

Every parent understands that discipline and punishment assist in helping children learn to obey. So too, hardships are great instructors in life. No one enjoys it; no one seeks it out but suffering and discipline help us grow. If Jesus learned obedience through what He suffered, what should we expect as children of God?

We often approach God and our faith from a very egocentric view point: what can God do for me? Because our comfort is often our priority, we assume that it is His.

God is primarily interested in our obedience, not our comfort. He wants that through us, as we obey Him, we bring His love and mercy to those around us. If Jesus learned obedience and was perfected through what He suffered, we should anticipate that God will use trials and hardships in our lives in a similar manner.

When we confront trials and hardships in our lives, do we seek to use those opportunities to submit to the Lord and learn obedience to Him? Or, do we seek to have them removed from our lives; do we complain? We can only learn if we’re paying attention and if our perspective allows us to do so. No one enjoys hardships, trials, or suffering, but if we understand that through these circumstances God teaches us obedience and perfects us, then that allows us to submit to whatever we are going through having His goal as our end.

God will lead us into circumstances to test us to see if we will obey. He guides us for our growth for His glory. Do we allow Him to do that in our lives? Or do we complain and seek our own comfort and happiness?

PRAYER

Father make me like Your Son, who learned obedience through what He suffered; teach me to obey, and as life circumstances and hardships come my way, may my perspective be always to learn obedience to You through what I go through for Your glory. Amen.

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The Sign of Love

“If you love Me, keep My commands” (John 14:15). When we speak about love, we often refer to an emotional feeling, something that moves our emotions. Love for another, ourselves, and even God often boils down to that which we feel. If my feelings are high, then my love is stronger.

In the Bible, love is an action. Jesus tells His disciples that the sign of their love for Him is how they keep (obey) His commandments. The same remains true today; our obedience demonstrates our love of the Lord, not our emotions.

Jesus’ statement to His disciples parallels Moses’ instructions to the Israelites: “Love the Lord your God and keep His requirements, His decrees, His laws and His commands always” (Deut. 11:1; emphasis added). In the Old Testament, one showed his or her devotion to the God of Israel by obeying His commandments, doing what pleased Him. Action. Obedience.

The Bible is consistent in its message that we exhibit our love for God through our obedience to His commandments. Jesus asked His disciples, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46). So, we not only display our love and devotion to Jesus by obeying Him, but we actually verify whether or not we truly identify Him as Lord, by our obedience.

We demonstrate our love for God, not by announcing it to others, or what we say on social media, or how excited we get singing in church; no, we demonstrate our love for God in our obedience, and specifically by how we love others (Lev. 19:18; Matt. 7:12; 22:35-40; John 15:12).

Do we see our love of God demonstrated in our pursuit of obeying Him?

We live in a world filled with a lot of talking, but do we daily seek to allow our actions to show the depth of our love and devotion to God? Do we identify ourselves as Jesus’ disciples by our keeping of His commandments? Jesus identified obedience as the evidence of our discipleship. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

PRAYER

Father, today I submit myself to Your will and commands. In everything I say and do, may I demonstrate the depth of my love and devotion to You. Amen.

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