Stumbling Blocks

Get thee behind me, Satan (Matt 16:23).

These are familiar words of Jesus, when Satan tried to tempt Him with a more comfortable path instead of the one that lay ahead at Calvary. But later in Matthew, Jesus was recorded as saying these same words to Peter, His close friend and follower.

Peter was genuinely concerned about Jesus. When Jesus foretold Peter about His upcoming suffering, Peter did not want to hear it—“Far be it from You, Lord.”

Satan uses every trick in the book to lure us away from God’s plan. Jesus called Peter (or Satan using Peter) a stumbling block. How often has a well-meaning friend tried to suggest an easier path for us? How often have we tried to steer a loved one in a less painful direction that in the long run would hinder their growth? Enabling maybe?

Jesus continued, “You are not setting your mind on the things of God, but merely human concerns.”

Because stumbling blocks aren’t intrinsically bad things, Satan can so easily trick us. Maybe Jesus’s words should be our first prayer when we are trying to discern and decide, “’Get out of the way, Satan’…in the name of Jesus”


He Talks to Me Too

But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears (John 16:13a).

God speaks to every believer. Period. Sometimes His message hits us like a two-by-four. Other times it is still and quiet and we need to be still and quiet listening for it.

God speaks to us through His word. We may read the same passage over and over again through the years, and then one day, it jumps off the page and is totally relevant to our current situation.

God speaks to us through prayer. We may be praying for a miracle and He may answer by giving us instructions. Really, why couldn’t God give us a thoughtful inspiration? After all, He created our minds. God will never give us a thought that is contradictory to His word or character, but His way is always the best way.

God can speak to us through other believers. Often this can confirm our prayers and should always align with His word.

God wants to talk to us. His ways are the best. His plans for us are the best, and He is more than willing to reveal Himself to us.


The Word

A little different format today—I have been studying Psalm 119 which mainly concerns the Word of God. I’m sure that God was intentional about its importance in making it the longest chapter in the Bible. Today, rather than focusing on one verse, I’d like to comment on just a few of the many profound verses in this chapter. Feel free to add your comments, too.

(5) Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect your decrees!—We can’t do it in our own power and, as I said before, even the apostle, Paul said that he sometimes did things that he hated. Can you imagine what our world would be like if we all could accomplish this!

(11) I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.—If we are feeding our hearts the Bread of Life, our actions are more apt to follow.

(18) Open my eyes that I might see wonderful things in your law.–The Living Translation says, “…the wonderful truths in your instructions.” Either way, this is a great prayer to God to open out hearts to absorb His ways.

(24) Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors.—The advice of well-meaning family or other believers are only relevant if they coincide with God’s word and the Spirit speaking directly to us through our prayers.

(98) Your commands make me wiser than my enemies.—Unlike David, my enemies don’t often appear in human form, rather they are temptations, or self-doubt, or pride. God’s word contains principles that enable us to deal with these enemies, too.

(130) The unfolding of your word gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.—The wisdom from God’s word is more meaningful and appropriate that even the most naïve, unsophisticated, uneducated can be wiser than the world’s most knowledgeable and brilliant scholar.

And finally as a prayer

(133) Direct my footsteps according to your word—let no sin rule over me.

Worthless Things

Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word (Ps 119:37).

At this time in my life, my time is  much more flexible. I find myself often praying for God to guide me and show me His will for the day. God does not reveal His will for our lives from beginning to end, and there are very good reasons for this. His plans for each of us are so tremendous that it may scare us because we haven’t grown to that point yet. Or it may be the opposite; we may get so excited that we jump ahead of God when we, or the time, are not ripe. Another very important reason is that we need to learn to trust—trust Him as He shows us the way to go—

This is why reading the word and loading our hearts with His principles is so vital. As our hearts are being filled with truth and love, our decisions and actions have a much better chance of being righteous. Psalm 119 tells us that the word illuminates our path and that we can stay on the right path by heeding it.

But the verse that stood out to me today is Psalm 119:37–Turn my eyes away from worthless things. This certainly doesn’t mean that we’re destined to a somber life. Quite the opposite! But many things that the world has to offer are shallow, just a veneer. We’ve all heard about people chasing power, fame and wealth and acquiring all that the world has to offer except the joy and peace that comes only from following the word.

Those worthless things are so enticing, and before we know it, we are lured and ensnared, but never satisfied. Jesus used some pretty strong words when He said that if our eye causes us to sin, pluck it out. The prayer in this verse makes it easier—Turn my eyes away from worthless things; help me not even to notice nor acknowledge them.

One Way

Jesus answered, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me (John 14:16).

God is not racist. That may not be a surprise since He is the creator of all. But although He is patient and kind, and the very definition of love, He is not tolerant.

How can He be? Sinfulness cannot reside in an environment of pure goodness. That’s why, in His boundless love, He sent His beloved Son, His perfect sinless Son to take our punishment.

Jesus, God in the form of man, was the only one who could do that. His spotlessly pure, perfect righteousness was the only thing that could cover our unrighteousness. That’s why Jesus said that no one could come to the Father except through Him.

In a world where we are encouraged to accept any and everything as being acceptable, God’s word says, “Not so.”

Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life (Matt 7:14). And although He desires for all to be saved and come to a knowledge of truth, only a few will find it.

Taste and See

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him (Ps 34:8)

The word “taste” appears a few times in connection with the goodness of God in both the Old and New Testaments. God’s choice of words is never random, but each is meaningful and carefully chosen.

As I thought about this, I concluded that our sense of taste is the most complicated. It works in connection with other senses including smell– aroma and also touch–texture. Though we may try, a taste is most difficult to explain in words. It can only be described by comparing it to another taste–like chicken (sorry, I couldn’t help myself). So it is with the goodness of God. There is no comparison; it must be discovered, experienced, and acknowledged.

God’s goodness is complete—totally satisfying, sufficient to meet our every need.

The challenge isn’t going back for a second helping, but to park there and bask in the Lord’s provision as this verse concludes, blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.

Guidelines to Godliness

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age (Titus2:11-12).

When Paul penned the words “in this present age” it was the first century. When we read these words it is the 21st century and still they are absolutely relevant. I was tempted to write this entire short chapter because it gives so many guidelines for living a successful and joyous life. 

Paul addresses older and younger men, older and younger women, people who work for bosses, those who are under the authority of their government—basically everyone.

My best understanding of life in the first century came from a visit to the ruins of Pompeii. The guide tried to bring to life the debased society of the time. I was expecting to be shocked by the corrupt activities of the people—gluttony, wickedness, idolizing and flaunting sex, corruption in government, pursuing worldly passions, and labeling every kind of evil as good.

Really, other than the absence of iPhones, we could have been talking about USA 2018. I have felt the same presence of evil here and now, too.

In God’s word through Paul, we are urged to live virtuously regardless of where we are in life—to be self-controlled, to avoid gossiping, to be kind, and worthy of trust.

In comparison, doing things by God’s system is like a breath of fresh air after leaving an environment of smog and pollution, and His word outlines the perfect formula.