“You Have Always Been King”

How are you doing today?  Have I caught you in the morning?  Maybe you’re grabbing some quick encouragement on your lunch break.  Either way, I’m glad you’re reading this.  It’s a great way to start and push through the day.

Are things going fairly smoothly for you right now?  Or are you stressed?  We’re always going to hit those times.  We thank God for the times of apparent ease, and in rough moments, we strive to remember that God’s in control.  Psalm 93 powerfully captures this.

Psalm 93 

1 The Lord reigns; he is robed in majesty;
the Lord is robed; he has put on strength as his belt.
Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.
2 Your throne is established from of old;
you are from everlasting.

Verse two emphasizes God’s royal position (“Your throne”) more so than the length of His existence.  Therefore, “you are from everlasting” could be read with equal faithfulness as…

“You have always been King.”

Wow.  That thought gives me chills!  When I read it, I imagine great claps of thunder followed by reverent silence.  There has NEVER been a time when God was OUT OF CONTROL.  His power has never been challenged because all power resides in Him.  He literally has no equal or opposite.  Eternal ages have passed and will continue to pass, and through it all HE IS KING.

3 The floods have lifted up, O Lord,
the floods have lifted up their voice;
the floods lift up their roaring.
4 Mightier than the thunders of many waters,
mightier than the waves of the sea,
the Lord on high is mighty!

“The floods” and the “many waters” mentioned here are the disastrous circumstances in which we regularly find ourselves in this sin-broken world.  Those terms have always been symbols used throughout the scriptures for hardships, obstacles, and overwhelming adversity.  In our lives, it could be trouble at home or at work.  The “waters” could have a face, the face of one who is seemingly behind our woes; however, that one is not in control.  Perhaps it’s a faceless situation out of which there’s not apparent escape; the waves of the situation ROAR AND ROAR, threatening to shipwreck our lives and utterly dash us to pieces.  However…

4 Mightier than the thunders of many waters,
mightier than the waves of the sea,
the Lord on high is mighty!

“You have always been King.”  

Our Lord commands the seas and walks upon them.  Those demonstrations of power before the eyes of the disciples were truly amazing miracles pointing to the divinity of Jesus, and this point can’t be diminished.  However, we’d be neglecting the aforementioned, established theme and an intended message Jesus was sending if we didn’t look at the symbolism of those miracles.  Jesus was showing that, just as He had the authority to command the literal wind and waves and to walk upon the waters, He has the authority to command the situations of mine and your lives, and just like He did with Peter, raise us up above them.  Don’t miss that!

5 Your decrees are very trustworthy;
holiness befits your house,
Lord, forevermore.

His Word and His will are trustworthy.  We can fearlessly rest our hopes and our lives upon them.  His will for our lives is good and complete, and He’s powerful enough to see it through.  Such knowledge must become ingrained into us so that we never hesitate to follow Him as He continues pressing His will forward in our day to day lives and throughout all time.

“Holiness befits your house.”  He is holy.  And we are now His house (1 Corinthians 6:19) and, as believers, we are members of His household (Ephesians 2:19); as holiness befits His house, it befits our lives, and our trust in His sovereignty, His “over-it-all-ness,” gives us the confidence to lead lives of obedience resulting in holiness.

“You have always been King.”  

Let’s bend the knee each day in everything we do and honor Him as our authority, as King.

Keep climbing.

Matthew

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What Do You Do When No One is Watching?

“Integrity.”

Do you have it?

What is it?

According to the online dictionary it is:

INTEGRITY:

  1. the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.
  2. the state of being whole and undivided.

So, do you have it? Integrity. It’s been said that integrity is doing the right thing when no one is looking. I agree with that statement.

Psalm 101 is a Psalm about integrity. It’s centered around King David and his position as King, but the principles found here work for anyone. I’ll interject some thoughts as we move through this Psalm together.

Psalm 101

1 I will sing of steadfast love and justice;
    to you, O Lord, I will make music.
I will ponder the way that is blameless.

Think about that. If you are a person of integrity, you will ponder the path or way of life that is right and blameless. That means that you and I are not pumping garbage into our minds. We can’t be processing that which is evil and that which is blameless and expect positive results. That’s like mixing spoiled milk with good milk and then trying to eat that rancor on cereal. YUCK!
Oh when will you come to me?
I will walk with integrity of heart
    within my house;

Okay…that hit me square between the eyes. I can handle the integrity thing in public…but, at home…come on! That’s where we let our hair down (well…some of you do…I can’t :)). Honestly, having integrity in front of my kids when I’ve had a tough day or I’m under pressure is tough…but, that’s integrity and here’s the thing. If I’ve been occupying my mind (music, entertainment, etc) with good things that are blameless and right, then I’m much more apt to react in my home with integrity, no matter what the occasion.
I will not set before my eyes
    anything that is worthless.

Uh oh…there it is again. Watching worthless stuff. Enough said…you know what you watch on TV and on the computer and your phone. Take it up with the Lord. Is it worthless or will it draw you towards integrity?
I hate the work of those who fall away;
    it shall not cling to me.

Now the Psalmist is meddling about our friends. Will we hang around those who are “falling away” from that which is good? He says, “You better not cling to those kind of people.”
A perverse heart shall be far from me;
    I will know nothing of evil.

How much evil? NONE! Zip! Zero! I will know NOTHING of evil. Wow!

Whoever slanders his neighbor secretly
    I will destroy.
Whoever has a haughty look and an arrogant heart
    I will not endure.

David is speaking now from his duty as a king. He will protect the people of Israel. This follows in lockstep with the role of government found in Romans 13. The government is to protect the people and maintain law and order…beyond that…well…pretty much that’s it!

I will look with favor on the faithful in the land,
    that they may dwell with me;
he who walks in the way that is blameless
    shall minister to me.

David is saying he’s going to have no one around him who isn’t faithful and blameless. How about you? What are your standards? And please…please…don’t misunderstand. It’s okay to have lost (unsaved) friends. Of course we need to have them in our lives so that we can be salt and light to them. But, don’t be taking your orders from them. Don’t be singularly hanging around with that kind of crowd, or they’ll take you down. (1 Corinthians 15:33…Do not be deceived: bad company corrupts good character.)

No one who practices deceit
    shall dwell in my house;
no one who utters lies
    shall continue before my eyes.

Morning by morning I will destroy
    all the wicked in the land,
cutting off all the evildoers
    from the city of the Lord.

See the seriousness of David. He’s going to cut off the evildoers from his life.

Think about your life, and I’ll think about mine. What do you do in secret when no one is watching? God knows all. As you soberly ponder that thought ask this: Do people see you as a person of integrity? Do they see you as a person of high moral character? If not, why not? What would be your reason(s)? Those reasons are keeping you from the best that the Lord has for you. Are you sure it’s worth it.

Integrity. I want it! But, it only comes to those who ponders the way that is blameless.

Kevin

Unite My Heart

The psalms are rich, no doubt about it.  As I’ve recently been reading in the book of Psalms, several passages have stood out to me, but none have arrested my mind and my heart like the following words…

Psalm 86:11

Teach me your way, O Lord,
that I may walk in your truth;
unite my heart to fear your name.

My focus is so easily divided…

Does that happen to you?  My heart longs to be satisfied, and the world promises satisfaction in so many ways, especially through entertainment or through security in stuff.  And now I give my obligatory disclaimer:  there’s nothing inherently bad about entertainment or having things.  And now’s the time you likely expect me to wax eloquent about “just not letting those things become gods in your life,” right?  That certainly happens in ways more insidious than we are ready to recognize, but the words of David take my mind in another direction.

His desire is to “fear” God above all else.  This is the part when Bible teachers will say, “Now, God doesn’t want you to be afraid of Him.  That’s not what ‘fear’ means.  The psalmist is saying we should reverence the Lord.  That’s all.”  Can I share the literal translation of these words in the Hebrew?  In the Hebrew, they literally mean to, “Bind my heart to the fearing of Your Name.”  It carries the significance of wholehearted commitment.  

When I combine that meaning with my struggle of a divided focus, I begin to see that I can and do “bind” my heart to things in this world that promise satisfaction.  You name it.  It could be fervent commitment to watching every second of a favorite show or movie, catching every play of every ball game, or indulging in long video game sessions.  It could be the pursuit of living in a just the right home, driving just the right car, wearing just the right clothes, and playing with just the right toys.  You can fill in what “just the right” means for you.

My point is, now my life is about God AND all these other things.  They may not replace God in my life, but they sit alongside Him on my life’s top shelf of important things.  I begin to choreograph my life to revolve around these other things.  In fact, my life may even begin to become more anxious for FEAR of missing out on any of these “important” things.  And there it is…

unite my heart to fear your name.

I become equally concerned for the temporary things of this temporary world, when my total concern should be for the Lord.  What does He want for my life?  Do I trust Him to provide for me, giving me the things I need?  Do I think He loves me enough to even give me a few things He knows that I like and want?  Because, you see, if I do, then I don’t feel the need to chase after them myself.  I can lean back and rest in Him—His guidance, His provision, His security, and His love—and I can let go of everything else and TRUST Him to bring back into my life the things HE wants in it.  It’s the picture of holding onto Him with one hand and other things with the other hand, and letting go of the other things so that I can hold onto Him with both hands.

unite my heart to fear your name.

To “fear” something in the way that’s mentioned here is to make my life about it.  There’s nothing wrong with enjoying things in this world that aren’t sinful in and of themselves, but when we begin to wrap our lives around those things, God gets lost in the mix.  I don’t want my life to be about anything or anyone else other than God.

Psalm 86:11

Teach me your way, O Lord,
that I may walk in your truth;
unite my heart to fear your name.

May I ever crave and be satisfied in that.

I’m climbing toward Him too.  Keep climbing with me.

Matthew

Is There A God?

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That was a question posed to me in my freshman Biology class at Appalachian State University. Up to that point in my life, it was not something I had even given real consideration. However, as I later told my parents: “I can’t believe that you have to pay such hard-earned money for me to listen to garbage,” my professor posited (put forth) that question. However, the way she said it was later answered with an emphatic: No!

I remember the anger that welled up in my body. I sat that there at that black 4′ x 8′ table thinking to myself, “How can someone so educated be so dumb?” And what was worse, there were students in the class who weren’t strong enough to sit through her ungodly rants, and there, in a classroom in Boone, NC, they were persuaded to believe there is no God.

All I could think about was the fact that outside the widows of our classroom you could see the beautiful mountains of Appalachian. God was almost screaming out, “I AM HERE!!!” And as I read the words of the Psalmist in Psalm 100 I think of His power and His might in creation and in mankind.

Psalm 100:3

Know that the Lord, he is God!
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Isn’t that a powerful verse?
Yes, I had to work through many things my freshman and sophomore years at ASU. My faith was being questioned on all fronts, and that caused great questions in my own heart and life. Honestly, I just thought everyone believed in God (at least, in some respects). I couldn’t see how they could not. How can they explain the sunrise and sunset? How could they explain the birth of a baby, or a new fallen snow? How could all of this just BE, by chance? It was illogical to me (and still is).
The Psalmist said, “KNOW that the Lord, he is God.” KNOW! Do you get that? KNOW!!! We can KNOW that He is God. How? Simple. Through Jesus Christ.
Now, let’s reason through that a moment. It is a historical fact that Jesus Christ came to this earth. No one disputes or doubts that. While on this earth, Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. In fact, He claimed to be God! Take special note of verse 30 below.
John 10:27-30
27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

 

Now folks, I’m not rocket-scientist or a brain surgeon, but if Jesus claimed to be God and there is indisputable evidence that He came to this earth, died on the cross and rose from the dead, then there has to be a God. Do you see that? Jesus is God, and as sure as Jesus came to this earth and walked among men, there is a God!

Do you know what this leads me to do? It leads me to rejoice with the Psalmist as I read all of Psalm 100 (A Psalm of Thanks):

Psalm 100

1 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
    Serve the Lord with gladness!
    Come into his presence with singing!

3 Know that the Lord, he is God!
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
    and his courts with praise!
    Give thanks to him; bless his name!

For the Lord is good;
    his steadfast love endures forever,
    and his faithfulness to all generations.

Oh, there is definitely a God and the image of His essence in the second person of His deity came to this earth to live and die and rise from the dead to prove it! Hallelujah!!!

Kevin

When Good Things Happen To Bad People

Yeah, you read that right.  We usually find ourselves bemoaning the opposite.  “Why do bad things happen to good people?” we ask.  However, Asaph asks the question that usually stays painfully lodged in our spirits.  Why do good things happen to bad people?  You try to live a godly life, and yet it so often seems like life favors the ungodly.  What’s the deal?!  Asaph works through it in Psalm 73.

Psalm 73

A Psalm of Asaph.

Truly God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
2 But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled,
my steps had nearly slipped.
3 For I was envious of the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

Asaph writes from a very individualistic perspective.  “Sure,” he says, “God’s good to Israel, but as for me, well…”  He is faltering!  He’s questioning whether living a godly life is worth it!

I love his honesty!  And apparently, so does God, seeing as He preserved these words in the eternal Word.  Asaph is so real!  So genuine!  Most believers would never allow themselves to be so vulnerable as to admit that they were wondering if living for Jesus was worth it.  But you see, God hates lies, and that’s what fakeness is.  Asaph doesn’t hold back.  He isn’t fake with God!  He lays is all out.  “God, I’m struggling.  I try to live for you, but instead of things being easy, they’re HARD!  Meanwhile, the wicked all around me have the good life!”  And he admits that his feet “nearly slipped” at the sight of the prosperity of the wicked.  The next several verses describe the ungodly deeds and the frustrating prosperity of the wicked…

4 For they have no pangs until death;
their bodies are fat and sleek.
5 They are not in trouble as others are;
they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.

“Their lives just aren’t filled with troubles like mine!”  You can hear his frustration.  He doesn’t get it, and neither do we at times.  Cheaters get ahead.  Lazy people who are successful at looking productive have success.  Liars don’t get caught, and even harm the upright.  And all the while, they think there’s nothing wrong with the way they live because good things keep coming their way.  Asaph continues this way until verse 16…

16 But when I thought how to understand this,
it seemed to me a wearisome task,
17 until I went into the sanctuary of God;
then I discerned their end.

18 Truly you set them in slippery places;
you make them fall to ruin.

Yowza!  They’re headed for destruction, and they haven’t got a clue!  The Lord is literally preparing them to be an example, a real life object lesson that no one will miss.  Are you paying attention?  Are you picking up what God’s putting down?

God won’t let wickedness go unpunished, and God’s goodness in your life doesn’t mean that you’re living right!

That first part is a relief, is it not?  But how about the second part?  Does that notion irritate you?  Does it set you on edge?  Perhaps it flies in the face of everything you have been taught, but think about it.  Does it not mesh with your personal experience and the admonition recorded here in Psalm 73?  Folks who aspire to everything BUT a godly life have it all!  They’re living it up, but according to God’s standards, they aren’t living right!  God’s fixing to make a lesson out of them.

We can rejoice in the fact that wickedness will be punished one day.  One day, the righteous will never again be oppressed by the wicked.  However, let’s take the second lesson as well.  Let’s not gauge our holiness by God’s goodness in our lives.  Let’s continue LIVING BY THE BOOK.  God’s Word is our guide for living out God’s will.  Try to make a godly impact on those around you, but at the end of the day, and at the end of days, their lives don’t matter in regards to how you and I live.  No matter how things are going for others or us, let’s keep living for Him.

23 Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Keep climbing.

Matthew

How to Have Devotions With Your Family That Won’t Make Your Kids Scream

Anyone who has ever tried to have Bible Devotions with their family knows it’s not necessarily an easy thing. In fact, it can be down right difficult. Why? Because the kids don’t mean to…but, they can easily pour cold water on the whole situation when you say, “Time for Devotions!!” Now, don’t be upset. It doesn’t mean that your kids aren’t super spiritual. It means they are normal. Because the truth is, most of us make devotions really, really boring. And the truth is: we don’t mean to do that either.

Here’s the problem. We can’t make Family Devotions something like getting a root canal (sorry to all the dentists reading) :). We can’t even make it like most of our church services, (ouch!). We’ve got to think about how we can simply talk with our family. That’s right…just talk with our family.

Let me share with you Psalm 78 again. Dads, particularly, we need to listen to this. As we’ve seen, we are commanded to teach our children the ways of the Lord.

Psalm 78

4 We will not hide them from their children,
    but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
    and the wonders that he has done.

He established a testimony in Jacob
    and appointed a law in Israel,
which he commanded our fathers
    to teach to their children.

Okay, it’s clear! There is no wiggle room on this. It’s not an option. We must teach our children the commands of God, but how?

Well, aren’t you glad the Bible also gives us the answer to that. It’s found in Deuteronomy 6.

Deuteronomy 6:7

You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

When are we teach? Let’s see…

  • sitting in our house
  • walking by the way
  • when we lie down
  • when we rise up

Got it? Doesn’t sound too hard does it? And it shouldn’t be.

Folks, can we make this simple? Talk about the Lord and His ways as much as you can and it will shock you when your kids sometimes say, “Hey Dad…are we having a devotion?” Bingo! Beautiful! It’s so cool when they don’t even recognize that we’re simply talking about the Lord in everyday conversation.

Mom and Dad, your kids love talking to you…period! They want to be with you. Yes, I know they may say otherwise, but truly, deep down, they want to be with you. So, talk to them about the Lord while driving down the road. That would be the “walking by the way” part. Just bring up in conversation something you hear on the radio or something you see out the window. Ask the Lord for wisdom and use Scripture to teach. It could be as simple as the birds flying over and God’s creation from Genesis 1. You get the idea.

Often in our home, we will have supper and then have the devotion right after it. Sometimes I’ll read exactly what I’ve sent out via this Daily Devotion and other times I might feel led just to play a Christian song on my computer and we’ll talk about the lyrics. Sometimes I might wait and we do the devotion outside on the porch or deck. Sometimes we might do the devotion standing in the kitchen. Again…it’s really more of an ongoing conversation. Our job as parents is to be constantly teaching our children about the ways of God. So, if you can see this subject (devotions) in that light, it’s less overwhelming.

Now, understand this…I’m not saying there can’t be structure, and that you have to figure out how to entertain your kids with your devotion time. I’m not saying that at all. There are times that I expect my kids to listen and to do so for more than 5 minutes. It might be 15-20 minutes (but it’s seldom longer than that, unless they continue to ask questions). Yes, there are times that children should be expected to sit and listen, but this must be age-appropriate. Remember a child has an attention span that is their age plus 3 to 5 minutes. Thus, you’ve got about 9-11 minutes with a 6-year-old.

Here’s the point. If you are not doing Family Devotions, use this devotion. Just get started somewhere. I know what you are thinking. How many times per week. Answer: as many nights as you can. But, understand it’s not going to happen every night of the week in an “official” way. And that’s fine. But, if you are not home 3-4 nights per week for at least an hour or two before your kids’ bedtime, you are gone too much. (Sorry…but, it’s the truth…you are too busy and you better slow down…I say this from experience.) Again, this doesn’t have to be hard. If you are driving to and from something (like a practice or game), talk about the Lord. Have one of the kids read this devotion from their phone (again, age-appropriate…assuming they have a phone).  The point is: JUST GET STARTED.

Psalm 78:6-7

that the next generation might know them,
    the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children,
    so that they should set their hope in God
and not forget the works of God,
    but keep his commandments.

Keep climbing.

Kevin

An Attitude of Gratitude

Psalm 136:1

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

Did you know that these are the most oft repeated words by God in the Bible?  My mentor, Dr. Charles Whipple, drilled that into me many years ago; I’ll never forget it.  If you read the rest of the 136th psalm, you’ll find that every verse is broken up with the refrain, “for his steadfast love endures forever.”  Added to each refrain is a mighty work of God for which He deserves thanksgiving.

4 to him who alone does great wonders,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
5 to him who by understanding made the heavens,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
6 to him who spread out the earth above the waters,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
7 to him who made the great lights,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
8 the sun to rule over the day,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
9 the moon and stars to rule over the night,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

He’s done SO much!  And this isn’t even the entire psalm!  He’s worthy of praise and thanksgiving!  Did you know that genuine thankfulness is a side effect of being a Spirit-controlled believer?  Check it out…

Ephesians 5:18-21

18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

So the thing the Lord said the most throughout scripture and a major aspect of the Spirit-filled life are both about being thankful to Him?  YES!  We should be paying attention!  What does thankfulness do in our lives?  Well, for one thing, it gives us peace and increases our faith!  I guess that’s two things, but you get my point.  In moments of uncertainty, looking back in thankfulness for all the Lord has done for us reminds us that He will be faithful now just as He was then.

Thanksgiving gets us more and more on the same page with God too.  In Romans 2:4, Paul said,

Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 

In context, the passage is specifically dealing with men who judge others as if they were God while also practicing the very things for which they judge others.  Can you say “hypocrite?”  Paul is warning them by saying that just because you haven’t been punished by God for these things, just because you have blessings still showing up in your life, don’t think that you’re okay.  His forbearance, His GOODNESS in your life, is meant to lead you to repentance!”  Don’t “presume on” it; thank Him for it!  When we marvel at and thank God for the good things that only He brings into our lives, IT CHANGES US!  It acts as a spotlight, shining light on areas of our lives that, even we can admit, make us unworthy of such favor.  When we see it, it brings repentance, a change of mind, or a realization, if you will, that what we once thought was okay—or something that we probably honestly never gave a second thought to, for that matter—is NOT okay, that it breaks God’s heart, and we need His forgiveness and cleansing, and His power to overcome.

However, beyond anything that thankfulness adds to our lives, first and foremost, it’s God’s will that we thank Him.

1 Thessalonians 5:18

give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 

And did you catch that?  God’s will isn’t that we just thank Him for the good things.  We know the scriptures teach to be thankful for ALL things, but that’s also specifically God’s will.  He’s sovereign, and He’s good.  Therefore, nothing happens in our lives that He doesn’t intend to use to sanctify us and glorify Himself.  It doesn’t matter if we can’t see the big picture.  Thank Him anyway.  Thank Him for always being there, and thank Him for working in your life!  That’s what’s happening!  If something it happening in your life—and something always is—He’s working!  Are you paying attention?  Cultivating an attitude of gratitude will make us more attentive to His working in our lives.

Psalm 136:1-3, 26

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
2 Give thanks to the God of gods,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

26 Give thanks to the God of heaven,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

Thank Him as you climb.

Matthew