By Cathy Horner
How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.
With my whole heart I seek you;
let me not wander from your commandments!
I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you. (Ps.119:9-11, ESV)
Even as a small child, I was very aware of the presence of God. I remember those delicious afternoon nap times when I was 4, when you become increasingly drowsy and utterly aware of the steady beating of your heart. It was then that I would drift off to sleep totally convinced that my heartbeat was drawn from my Creator, who was very near. It was a Romans 1: 20 moment – a perception of God’s limitless, divine nature — within the soul of a child.
As I matured and became more aware of my personal rebellions against God, I was still aware of His presence, but more with a sense of fear and dread. I had been taught that He knew my every thought, word, and deed, and that my sin had put a barrier between myself and Him. I was afraid of His justly held wrath. What does this have to do with our passage? Bear with me.
It was not until I was a teenager that I realized that I knew of God but I did not know God. So I jumped into studying the Bible, God’s Word. I was blown away that God, the Heavenly Father, would send His Beloved Son to bear the wrath that I deserved so that I could be reconciled to Him. He loved me first, before I ever loved Him!! I surrendered my life to Him in faith, wanting to love Him in return. But how could I love someone I did not know?
At that point in our lives, God’s Word becomes intensely relevant. The Bible is God’s revelation of Who He is — of His divine nature as Creator, Redeemer, and Restorer. Therefore, I grow to know and reverence God by searching and studying the Scriptures. Within this passage in Psalms about the purifying effect of God’s Word, I find three essential truths it reveals about God (and consequently myself).
God is God and I am not.
He is the Creator of all things, the author of my physical life (Ps.139) and my spiritual life in Christ (Heb.12:1-2). That means that what He has to say – His Word – has authority over my life. It tells me that I am called to walk with Him in a way that reflects His glory – what verse 9 calls the “pure” way. Yet God, who knows all things, is aware that the remnants of my old sin nature would have me chasing after things that could darken and destroy my life and my witness. Therefore, His Word provides commands and precepts that set a guard around my life and heart, establishing boundaries for pure living. Since God knows all possible outcomes and consequences of my every word and deed, clearly His way is the wisest and best. The pure way offers my life protection, growth in spiritual understanding, and right relationships with others. Gloriously, Christ’s Spirit indwells me and will help me to guard my ways according to His Word. My boundaries actually free me to develop a deeper trust relationship with God.
My obedience is fueled by whole-hearted devotion to Him.
In verse 10, the psalmist gives us the key to obeying God – seeking Him with your whole heart. Because we are in Christ, we can have intimate relationship with the transcendent God who made all things and is enthroned above the heavens. When our hearts are whole-heartedly in search of His will and His ways, our benevolent “Abba” Father will support and guide us with His all-sufficient hand (2 Chronicles 16:9). If our love is only half-heartedly given because we also carry allegiance to other things in this world, verse 10 warns that we will tend to stray from His path.
Internalizing God’s Word keeps me from sinning against Him.
Finally, since God is everywhere present, verse 11 indicates that when we sin we are doing it in His face. Our sin is ultimately against Him. That stunning truth from the Word should be a check to any believer’s stubborn and willful heart, causing it to tremble in fear and reverence. The psalmist assures us that God’s Word – when stored up in our hearts –acts as a constant measuring rod to our thoughts, feelings, and decisions. It can deter us from sinning.
Thankfully, I have experienced this. When I’ve been tempted to participate in anything the Bible calls impure – drugs, sexual immorality, occult practices, defiling entertainment – God’s Word, memorized years ago, wells up within me: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:19-20). … Activity check.
Likewise, when my desire is to verbally lash out at someone, God’s Word whispers: “ Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear” (Eph.4:29). … Tongue check.
When I am discouraged and feeling overlooked by God, He speaks to my heart: “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope” (Jer. 29:11). … Attitude check.
So let no excuse stop you! Internalizing God’s Word is important to your spiritual health. Write a pertinent verse out on a card. Put it where you will see it and can repeat it frequently – your car’s dash, your kitchen window, your mirror, your desk. Meditate upon it, memorize it, store it in your heart. God’s Word is powerfully active, either restraining your feet, reminding your heart, or re-training your thoughts. Allow His Word do all it is meant to do within you.
Well, the time has come! Tomorrow I am looking for lots of people willing to pray for me. After two and a half years of PhD course work, I take my written Comps from 9:00 – 4:00 tomorrow. Next Friday I sit for the oral defense portion. In weakness His power is made known…so I am really ready to see that! Been preparing and look forward to it, but I’m still nervous! So pray for recall, clarity of expression and peace as I answer two essay type questions, each taking three hours. SDG! Thanks to all who will pray! Very grateful!
Today a new article appeared on the website of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. As we approach May 4, the National Day of Prayer, I had the opportunity to write a brief blog post on prayer. Hope it encourages you to take the initiative to become bolder and more imaginative in how to trust the Lord in your prayer life!
Click on the title or image below to be linked to the article. Thanks!
This week the International Missions Board published an article I wrote on how a church can become more intentional about developing a culture of disciple-making. The focus addressed the global aspect of that culture but certainly pertains to local emphases as well.
Here is the link. Let me know what you think!
This morning, my good friend James White gave the keynote address at the annual MLK breakfast out at the Sheraton Imperial in the Triangle. I’ve been before to this breakfast meeting several times but not in recent years.
With all the attention given to the presidential primaries around the country, I just found a very helpful article on the Desiring God website by Jon Bloom. Whereas one cannot always predict the presence of wisdom, the book of Proverbs gives keen insights into the presence of foolishness.
The article is weakened in its initial impact by posting it with a picture of one of the presidential candidates before any text giving the wrong impression that the article is a commentary only on Donald Trump.
In reality, the content of the article can be applied equally across the slates of candidates in both major political parties. Further, the characterizations of foolishness from Proverbs have no particular reference to politics, but represent humanity at large in all of its variations!
Read and enjoy the challenge to think well before choosing leaders in any context!
Like millions of others, I watched Kelly Clarkson cry on American Idol. Like millions of others, I cried with her.
Her song, “Piece by Piece” is about a father who left when she was six years old, and about her husband, who has loved her and their baby…who has picked up the pieces of her broken heart and shown her what it is like to be loved without having to earn it…I’m telling you, it is a powerful song.
But here is the thing.
Every human father eventually fails. Every husband falls down once in a while. Mothers and wives do too.
But as I listened, I heard the powerful strains of the Gospel coming through the music. All of us get dropped, and all of us find ourselves in pieces on the ground at one time or another. Yet no human being can fix everything that has been broken. We may resolve to try to help others, or to find someone who can help us. In the final part of the song, Kelly states her resolve not to be like her earthly father with her own daughter (and soon to be born son).
Piece by piece I fell far from the tree
I will never leave her like you left me
And she will never have to wonder her worth
Because unlike you I’m going to put her first
And you know, he’ll never walk away,
He’ll never break her heart
He’ll take care of things, he’ll love her
And piece by piece, he’ll restore my faith
That a man can be kind and a father should be great.
Only Jesus can lead us to the Father who can be that for all who are broken to pieces and abandoned by a disappointing, heart-breaking world. He’ll never break our hearts…He’ll never walk away…He’ll love us…He’ll take care of things…He’ll restore all that has been lost!
Listen to the song with you eyes on Jesus and see the loving mercy and grace of the heavenly Father in a song that was not likely to have been intended for that purpose. But as the power of its lyrics flood over you, be very glad that our great God picks us up, “piece by piece.” He makes all things new* through the grace of Jesus Christ to all who will come to Him who gives us rest** and restores our souls! Only God the Father can be that kind and be that great, can be worthy of our absolute trust. We all need such a Father…so we all need Christ!
*2 Corinthians 5:17
** Matthew 11:28-30
As Equipped for Life gets ready to launch, I am posting a new Facebook page to provide a place for updates and news of the progress being made to get this ministry up and running.
Check back periodically and see how things are going! Particularly would appreciate much prayer and would actually like to build a Prayer Team of 50 people who will commit to pray regularly for this important new work. If you are interested, let me know! The email for communicating regarding EFL is email@example.com.
Thanks for checking today’s post!
Thanks to the amazing skills of the Providence media team, audio and video recordings of the special farewell service from Sunday night are available on the http://www.pray.org website! Thanks to that entire team of men and women for their excellent work each week capturing the worship times of Providence.
Sunday night, the service was a few minutes under two hours with lots of great music and worship times, and then a series of short comments by a very special group of friends. Cathy and I were overwhelmed, to say the least!
If you were not able to attend, I do hope you will enjoy the video! To access the video, click on this link:
I am also attaching a copy of the order of service in case you would like to scroll through to favorite portions of the service.
What a night! …one last opportunity to say a public, worshipful thanks to the Lord for allowing Cathy and me to be part of the Providence family all these years! When we agreed to have a farewell evening to say our last farewell as pastor of Providence, I frankly had no idea what that would mean.
Last night as friends gathered for a time of glorious worship, Cathy and I got to see and hug people we have loved from across four decades of Christ-centered relationships. One surprise after another awaited us as first one then another and another would walk in–some having traveled many, many hours from many states to come celebrate with us. To say it was overwhelming only begins to touch on what it was like for us!
Not knowing what was planned, Cathy and I had prayed that we would be able to take it all in while at the same time deflect all praise to the Lord. We need not have been concerned because those who planned the day had made sure that each song, each testimony, each greeting, would give first place to the adoration of a gracious and generous Savior.
When the video of the evening goes online on http://www.pray.org, I will post that link so that those who could not come will be able to experience in part that evening of amazing worship! Music from a wide range of styles led by dear friends and great musicians stirred all of our hearts to lift high the name of Jesus!
For those looking for more information about our new ministry, Equipped for Life, there are a couple of posts here on this blog (December 3, July 7 and 10) that give a brief explanation of what we hope to see the Lord do. Two primary emphases of EFL will be equipping–teaching, training and encouraging ministry leaders, and missions–bringing together missions needs with missions giving.
Hopefully within the next couple of months we will be launching the Equipped for Life website, but in the meantime this blog will post progress as the details develop more fully.
If you are interested in helping us in this new endeavor, you can contribute by making checks payable to “Equipped for Life” and sending them to Equipped for Life, 6339 Glenwood Avenue, Raleigh, NC 27612 or to 1820 Albacore Lane, Raleigh, NC 27612. Since EFL is a 501(C)3 not-for-profit organization, all gifts are tax deductible. If you prefer, you can also make checks payable to Providence Baptist Church and note EFL on the “for” line of the check. When the website launches, there will be a provision for online giving. So whether you want to become a ministry partner with us, or just make a one-time contribution, please know how grateful we will be!
For more details about the ministry itself, please contact me via my new ministry email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will be very glad to fill you in on all the dimensions planned for this new and exciting phase of our calling to equip the saints for the work of ministry and connect missions needs with missions giving.
As far as last night is concerned, THANKS!…thanks to all of you for once again making us feel so blessed by a people we love so deeply!