Sunday, August 24, 2014

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Delight Thyself in the Lord

          What does it mean to delight thyself in the Lord?   Perhaps it could best be expressed by the following scripture: “Thou shalt love The Lord Thy God with all thy heart, with all thy might, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength.” (Mark 12: 30)  The image placed in my heart and mind by this scripture is one who loves God so much that he desires with all his being to learn how to put God first, to love, follow, and obey Him?  In order to do that, one can not just be satisfied with a one time experience with God.  Instead, I suggest that one would need to have within himself a burning desire to draw close to the Lord with an unquenchable hungering and thirsting, to know, love, and serve Him with every fiber of his being.  That in itself takes a commitment of ones time and interest just as it does to cultivate a friendship and personal relationship between two people here on earth.  To get to know someone, you have to draw near to them; you can not be walking away, running away, or simply ignoring them.  And so it is with God; if you draw near to Him, He will draw near to you.  Jesus came in the flesh, not only to redeem us, but that through Him we might know our Heavenly Father.  The Father is in Him and He is in the Father. It is He who sends the Holy Spirit to live in us when we receive Him into our heart to be our Savior and Lord. 

          In our daily walk with God, there is no such thing as standing still in a stage of neutrality.  Putting God first is characterized by making time to be with Him.  Anytime we let other things become our first priority, whether it be family, career, education, or pleasure, we are, at the least straying from Him, or at the most abandoning Him.  Loving God enough to always put Him and His ways first must become our first priority if we are to truly know what it is to delight in the Lord. Secondly, if we are married, our next priorities should be our spouse, then our children and others.  Getting any of these out of order, whether through thought, word, or deed, puts us in the precarious situation of contributing to the act of diminishing the influence and power of God in our lives; thereby, creating an idol in our own hearts.  If we are desirous of receiving God's blessings, then we must also desire to follow, obey and do that which is pleasing in His sight.  Learning to put God first is a life long process which requires our cooperation with and in the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, God made active and alive within us.  Because of our human frailties, and the battle against our flesh, the world, and the powers and principalities of the darkness of this world, our successfulness in this lifelong endeavor is always dependent upon our diligence and commitment in putting our own will under subjugation to the will of God.  This process is carried out through the power of the Holy Spirit, as He continues that good work begun within us when we first received Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior.       
     There is a scripture that is too often used incorrectly.  Any perversion or distortion of the word of God always leads to deception and a detour which will draw us away from God and His ways.   "Delight thyself in The Lord; and He will give thee the desires of thine heart."(Psalm 37: 4). Unfortunately, we are prone to putting the emphasis on the second part of the scripture, instead of fully understanding and applying the first part. Look at the disastrous result of that distortion.  What happens if I put "He will give me the desires of my heart" first? What have I in effect done to both God and myself?  I have given 'Me, Myself, and I’ top priority; thereby, reducing God to the status of a personal genie in a bottle. In arrogance and pride, I have just entered the ranks of Satan.  In making self the focal point and elevating this present temporal life to the foremost position of importance, I have thus reduced eternal life and the kingdom of God to a secondary or even lower status.  In effect, just like in the story of Aladdin's Lamp, we try to place God in the lamp, making Him into the genie that is to come out at our beck and call to do our bidding.  In so doing, we have told God that He does not know, or do, that which is best for us.  We have not put our trust in Him, but rather we have trusted in our own intellect, reasoning abilities, and opinions.  We have turned "Thy will be done" into "My will be done."  One of the keys to understanding the scripture, “He will give us the desires of our heart,” is to realize that we must first willingly submit our will to His, for He alone knows what is best for us.  We often forget the importance of that concept; thus, we fall into the trap of following our own heart, not realizing that we can easily be deceived by our own heart.  

          God gave us a free will.  He does not wish for any to perish (die in their sins), but that all would come to the saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.  We are given the liberty to use our free will to choose to go our own way without Him.  We can choose not to acknowledge His right to have authority over us.  In so doing though, we must understand that we rob ourselves of all the benefits of being His children and joint heirs with Jesus Christ.  God wants us to choose to follow Him and stay within His instructions for our protection, security, and well being.  Yet He will allow to chose to turn our backs on Him to go our own way.  Why is it so hard for us to understand that the choice is in our own hands; therefore, the consequences of our choices are also in our own hands?  God doesn’t make us do anything.  The responsibility for the consequences of our own choices can not be blamed on God or anyone else. 

          On an earthly level, we should be able to look at the family unit, as it was designed to be in this temporal world, to understand what it means to have the blessings which are available to members of a properly functioning family.  The child, who recognizes and accepts the right of his parents to have authority over him, will then receive the benefits of all the love and protection that his parents willingly and diligently pour out towards him.  They love him enough to teach him the way he should go, disciplining him, caring for and providing for all his needs, giving correction, instruction, and protecting him from harm to the best of their ability.  However, all of these benefits and blessings are vastly dependent upon the child’s willingness to cooperate with his parents by recognizing his parents’ right to have and exercise authority over him.  Harm to him is multiplied in direct correlation to how self willed and rebellious he is to their authority.  Our jails today are proof of that, for they are filled with people who never learned how to accept the right of anyone to exercise any authority over them, neither God, parents, authorities in the work place, governmental authorities, or any other source except for ‘self.’  In so doing, they created a world that was centered on themselves as the only god in their life.  If a child does not recognize the right of his parents, who he can see, to have authority over him, it is doubtful that he will learn to accept the right of God, who he can’t see, to have authority over him.  Thus, he has made himself a ‘bastard.’  Excuse the language, but that’s exactly the term used in the Bible, for it signifies one who is illegitimate and therefore is not legally qualified to be a partaker of the benefits and blessings which would ordinarily be given him as a legitimate and recognized member of the family. 

          Being a legitimate child of God through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, is the basis for understanding the concept that God doesn’t condemn us, but we condemn ourselves.  It is by our own refusal to accept His authority and plan for our salvation, both present and eternally, that we have chosen to remove ourselves from any legitimate right to all the benefits and blessings that He would have freely and willingly given unto us.  So why then is it so hard for us to understand why He has told us that we are to have “No other gods” before Him?  How many parents would be willing to have a child live under their roof that was not subject to their authority, but was subject to the authority, or lack of it, of the very worst kind of next door neighbor that you can imagine?  At the very least, all of us have witnessed/experienced first hand the chaos that ensues, and damage that is caused to every member of the family where the child is allowed to rule and reign without any constraints, instead of enjoying the benefits of the correct order of parent over child.  I do not refer to parental domination, but correct and godly authority that is meant to prevail in the structure of a godly family in order for peace and love to flow.  I can personally attest to trouble I caused in my own life and family, when I failed to be obedient to my earthly parents and my Heavenly Father.  Yet, somehow we can not see how these very same principles have to exist within the eternal family of God.  There can only be one God, if His benefits and blessings are to reign in our hearts and lives.           

          If you and I want to be a child of God, then through free will, we must make our personal choice to obey Him and let His will replace your own will.  As long as you and I have breath, and have not completely hardened our hearts to The Lord, it's not too late to go before The Lord to confess our sin, repent (turn from our wicked ways) and allow The Lord to change our hearts and set our feet back upon the straight and narrow path.  You and I continually have a war going on within us. Daily we struggle to put down our flesh and the old nature within which has not yet been totally renewed, for God is still continuing the process of making us more and more into His image.

      Let us undo the deception that is created by the perversion of the Word, and look at it with the correct order and intent of God.  God says what He means, and means what He says.  We get ourselves into trouble when we try to make God's word fit our opinions and what is convenient to us or to the world. 

     Let us revisit the original scripture, putting the emphasis back where it belongs.  It will make all the difference in the world, and can have a profound effect in our lives.  "Delight Thyself in The Lord."  If we did just that, in thought word, and deed, what kind of an impact could that have for you, me, and the whole world? God is a God of love, justice, order, peace, and liberty.  His word is given unto us that we might have a map, or book of instructions, meant to direct and keep us from harm.  Some people will try to portray as a bunch of needless rules and regulations, do’s and don’ts.  But God says that the Word is meant to be “a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. (Psalm 119: 105)  If we take time to reflect, we will be able to recall the myriad of times when we were kept from harm because we did follow His ways instead of going along with the ways of the crowd.  “Unless thy law had been my delights, I should have then perished in mine affliction.” (Psalm 119: 92)   “I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I might keep thy word.” (Psalm 119: 101)  As we choose to be led by the Word, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we will receive the benefits and blessings of His love, order, peace, and liberty in our lives.  Obedience is not given in order to earn God’s favor, rather obedience is to be given out of reverence and respect for Him.  His love is not earned, but is freely given, and His blessings open doors of possibilities which are awesome and mind boggling.  As usual, I am amazed by this great love that God has towards us.  It is so great that we can never completely comprehend it as long as we are limited by our own finite minds.  Yet, He is always at work to broaden our understanding of Him.  God’s patience with me is unbelievable.  So many times I fail Him, and so many times He picks me up to help me start over once again.  I can only imagine that He must love us with a love that has no bounds, for He never gives up on us.  He never once says, “Okay Ginger, now that was the last straw, and from here on out you are on your own!”  When I think of my own ability to have patience, or rather the sheer lack of it, both with myself and others, it makes me wonder why in the world He ever puts up with me.  And then I am humbled, and so very thankful to know that He is not like me. He is God, the great I AM, and there is none other like Him.

          I ponder upon the magnitude of this great love that He has for you and me on the one hand, and yet, on the other hand, there is sadness within my soul.  Why sadness?  He has always had a design for your life and mine. And what do we do? Thinking that we know better than the Master Architect, we often go behind or before Him busily erasing, disrupting, or distorting His master plan, replacing it with our own inept and seriously flawed plans.  I think of the many times in my life when I have given Him cause to be disappointed in me.  If it were not for His great mercy, grace, and forgiveness, I would not be able to stand under the load of so great a guilt.   How many times have I pushed Him aside; thereby hindering, delaying, or preventing the greater plans He had first purposed for me?  I am continually reminded of the stark reality of the meaning of the scripture that teaches "all have fallen short of the mark."  Yet, He doesn’t use His word to beat me down, but rather to lift me up.  I am reminded that the fear of the Lord and experiencing God’s judgment is meant to be a good thing, not a bad thing in my life.  Its purpose is not meant for my destruction, but for my correction to call me back to Him and away from the path of destruction that I had been following.  To feel sorrow for our actions is a positive thing, when it is used to cause us to repent, to turn away from that which is not pleasing to the Lord.  “Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing.” (II Cor. 7: 9)  Satan is the accuser; he will try to tell you that there is no returning and you are totally lost, destroyed, and without hope of redemption.  Anytime we hear such a voice, we can be assured it’s not the voice of Jesus.  The voice of Jesus gently encourages you and me; “Yes, it’s true.  You did veer from the path, and you’ve rather made a mess of things, but all is not lost.  Let’s determine to go on together.  Yesterday is gone, tomorrow may not come, but today is a new day and we can start anew.” To fear the Lord, that is to have such a great respect for Him that you sorrow unto repentance, because loving Him means you don’t ever want to purposely disappoint Him.  To fear the Lord is a good thing and serves to keep you and me under the cover and protection of the shadow of His Almighty wings.

          We can all replay the many times in our lives the disastrous effects of having put “I” before the great “I Am.”  It’s those times that Satan would have us stay focused upon to keep us down and lost in the misery of the past sins of our lives.  Jesus always reminds us that where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty, liberty from the past, set free to go on into a future as if the past had never occurred.  Let us not dwell on the times that we “missed the mark,” but rather choose to learn from them that we may not be doomed to repeat them over and over again.  If we will let Him, God will take those things which Satan meant for our harm and turn them around to be for our good.  The memory of those times can serve as danger signs reminding us not to go down that same path again.  Memory of the past can serve to alert us to the deceptions of Satan, and, with the shield of faith in God and His word in our hearts, we are more fully equipped to stand against the fiery darts of the enemy.

          Are we now to walk in fear of what was or what is to come?  Absolutely not for “greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world.” (I John 4: 4)  “For God has not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”(II Tim. 1: 7)  Therefore, if we are to truly delight ourselves in the Lord, then we must also truly delight ourselves in His love, His Word, His will, His wisdom and knowledge, and His plans for our life.  Let us look again at the scripture; "Delight thyself in The Lord; and He will give thee the desires of thine heart."(Psalm 37: 4). We have already considered the deception of viewing God as being a genie who is therefore supposed to give us the desires of “our heart.”  All of us can readily see how many times that attainment of the desires of our heart did nothing but lead us into utter disappointment and disaster.  Can we not, by our own past experience, attest to the validity of the scripture, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jer. 17: 9)  How many times have you prayed for a certain thing; however, after not receiving it, you were given the privilege to see the disaster that was averted in your life when God answered your prayer with a definite “No”?  That in itself gives us a glimpse into a better understanding of God giving us the desires of our heart.

           Tell me honestly, who do you think really knows what is best for you, God or your own self?  If your answer is God, then we can travel on together for a better understanding of the scripture concerning the desires of the heart.  Let us consider for a moment what is possibly another key to the whole matter of “delighting in the Lord”?  If you or I really had an all consuming love for someone, even in the natural, wouldn’t we want to spend as much time as possible to get to know them?  Wouldn’t we want to find out what they think, how they feel, what they believe, what they like or dislike, and what really pleases them?  After all, you wouldn’t want them to think that all you are interested in is what they can do for you, treating them as an object which was made for the purpose of serving your needs?  Wouldn’t it be awful to live out your life with someone who always treated you with the attitude of “What have you done for me lately?”  You would be forced to live on a starvation diet of crumbs of affection which they might choose to dole out every now and then, not because they loved you, but because they believed it might benefit them in some way.  Do we not treat God like that sometimes? 

          How do you and I treat God?  Do we seek to love, serve, and know Him, or do we seek for Him to know us and serve us?  If we really love Him, we will seek to know Him, to spend time in His word, not just to learn what is pleasing to Him, but that we would also yearn to do that which was pleasing unto Him. Don’t we want to do all that is within our power to please the one that we love on earth?  I think I can understand this part of it so well because I have a husband who has truly loved me in that way.  I hope I have done the same for him, but I have my suspicions that in some ways, he has done a much better job at that than I have.  That’s why I don’t argue with him when he says, “I love you more.”  I know without a shadow of a doubt that God has loved me first, for he redeemed me, bought and paid for me, by the shed blood of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.  He has loved me first and He loves me more.  If we can grasp even a partial understanding of how much God loves us, then we might be able to grasp that He alone also knows and wants that which is for our best.  Shouldn’t that give to you and I an even greater desire to become all that He wants us to be?  If so, then we will seek to know Him so well that we want to place His desires in our hearts, to have them “written” on the tablets of our hearts, to apply them and live them out in our lives to the point that His desires will have become our desires.  There it is in a nutshell.  When we have removed our will, and placed Him and His will on the throne in our heart, then the desires of our heart that He gives unto us are the desires that He has placed there that all may go well for us.   Jesus always did just that, for He listened to and did only that which His Father in Heaven said and showed Him to do.  He was always about the business of His Heavenly Father; His Father’s desires were His desires and He delighted in doing them. 

          With you and me, delighting in the Lord is a process that is learned and worked out in our lives as we submit our will to following and obeying the will of God.  Therefore, IF we really want God’s best for us, it’s imperative that we: spend time with the one who has first loved us, learn from Him, let Him melt and mold us into His image, have our minds renewed by the washing of the water of the word, allow ourselves to be led and guided into all truth in His word through the power of Holy Spirit, and become transformed by the word and not conformed to the world.  Yes, learning to “delight ourselves in the Lord” is a life long process. The more we learn to delight ourselves in Him, the more of “His delight” will be reflected in our lives. 

          Let us each earnestly pray:  Teach me to delight myself in you Lord, to lay up your desires within my heart, that I may truly receive the desires of a newly created heart, now purposed to live out your plan as designed by you.  Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done –in my life- on earth, as it –will be done in my life- in Heaven.  Let us purposely choose to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind: and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10: 27)  To God be the glory, great things He has done.  In Jesus name I pray.  Amen.   

Psalm 37: 3 – 5, 23

Trust in the Lord, and do good;

So shalt thou dwell in the land,

And verily thou shalt be fed.

Delight thyself also in the Lord:

and he shall give thee the desires

of thy heart.

Commit thy way unto the Lord;

Trust also in Him;

And He shall bring it to pass.”

“The steps of a good man are ordered

by the Lord:

and he delighteth in his way.’

          Psalm 119 is one of my favorite among the Psalms.  I love to read it over and over again as its focus is on the importance of the word of God in our lives.  It is my belief that as we learn to “delight ourselves” in His word, we grow into a deeper and more personal relationship with the Lord.  Thus, we begin to experience the greater joys of “delight(ing) thyself in the Lord.”  You may even find yourself slipping away more often to spend more and more time with the One who has loved you first and who has written for you The Greatest Love Story ever told, the Bible.  As you delight yourself in His written word, the Holy Spirit will make it come alive within you.  You will feel within you that same feeling expressed by the men on the road to Emmaus, when the Lord appeared to them after His resurrection.  After they had walked and talked with Him, they uttered to one another: “Didn’t our heart not burn within us, while He talked with us by the way, and while He opened to us the scriptures?” (Luke 24: 32)  You and I need to go no further than the word of God to enjoy that same joy and the “opening of our eyes” as the Holy Spirit unfolds the revelation and meaning of the scriptures unto us.  As they did then, we too can know the joy of what it means to be on fire for the Lord and to hunger and thirst after Him, as we feed upon the Bread of Life and drink from the Living Waters.  As we learn to love Him first, He enables us to love one another more.  Catch the fire, and “DELIGHT THYSELF IN THE LORD!” 


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