We stepped into the home. It wasn't an ordinary home. Most homes are not so grand and do not require a ticket to enter. The splendor was breathtaking. Every corner was decorated. Every wall was adorned. The floor was not neglected in the scenery either. Carpets or expensive tile canvased every place where we would tread. There was not a detail that was overlooked.
As we toured the Biltmore House in Asheville, North Carolina, we were particularly captivated by the elaborate furnishings. Each chair and table was not merely a chair or table. They were pieces of artwork. It was clear that every piece of wood was carefully designed and carved by a masterful artist. There were curves, lines, and even floral decorations hand cut by a professional. Oh, the hours of labor and heart that must have gone into every inch of the wood!
Psalm 74:5-8 "A man was famous according as he had lifted up axes upon the thick trees. But now they break down the carved work thereof at once with axes and hammers. They have cast fire into thy sanctuary, they have defiled by casting down the dwelling place of thy name to the ground. They said in their hearts, Let us destroy them together: they have burned up all the synagogues of God in the land."
A man was known for his skill in taking a piece of wood and transforming it into precious art and furnishings. These furnishings capture the eye and the wonderment of those who look upon the work. And yet how quickly those things can be destroyed. These treasures can be consumed in mere moments, and what tragedy it is when it happens. The pain is keenly felt by those who have experienced the beauty of the work. As the pieces lay scattered across the floor, our hearts would break knowing the time, effort, attention, labor, and heart that went into even one article from the master woodworker. Tears would flow.
God, the Master Designer, has carefully carved and created many things. Two of His most precious designs are the home and the local church. Beautifully and perfectly crafted by the Master, these two items should give us pause and amazement. Often we pass by them without even glancing at their splendor, yet they are a fabulous treasure whether we value them or not. But there is a tragedy. The enemy has entered into the sanctuary and has plundered, scratched, and destroyed. Homes are wounded. Local churches are ravaged, and we pass by without a tear.
When is the last time you have shed a tear for the condition of homes and churches? When is the last time you have intensely studied and prepared to care for and protect these precious masterpieces? (Oh, how it must grieve the Master Woodworker to see these treasures ignored, undervalued, neglected, or damaged!)
When is the last time you have studied how the home and the local church are Biblically operated? When is the last time you have focused on fortifying, edifying, and protecting these two masterpieces? How have you invested recently in strengthening the foundations of these treasures?
It isn't good enough to simply value these treasures, but we must care for and guard them. They are more priceless and precious than our bubblegum machine trinkets and entertainments.
It matters where my eyes are. When running, if I look around instead of looking forward, there is a good chance I am going to trip. There is also a good chance if I look to the side that I will veer to the side and get squashed by a vehicle. If I don't look forward, there is even a really good chance I will step in a pile of cow dung from where cows are aloud to wander around anywhere they please. And the ever beloved open manholes are waiting to swallow up the person who takes their eyes off the road ahead. Yes, running has taught me to look forward and keep my focus on my task.
My son is in Basic Training in the Army. We found out he won a shooting competition in his battery. He has learned how to shoot well. Part of shooting is focusing on the target. When shooting, the rifleman cannot be looking at other shooters. They have to focus on their own target. If their eyes wander even slightly, their aim will be effected. The motto is "Aim Small, Miss Small." In other words, pick a very specific point on the target and the likelihood of missing the target itself is very minute. But the eyes must stay focused on the target.
The psalmist Asaph knew this concept well. He learned it the hard way. He was "running his race," but almost slipped because his eyes were in the wrong place.
Psalm 73:1-3 "A Psalm of Asaph. Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart.
But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped.
For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked."
Asaph got his eyes off on the wicked. He knew God was good. He knew God was just. But he started focusing on the prosperity of the wicked. What happened when his eyes wandered? What happened when his focus was distracted? Much like when I run without focusing on the road in front of me, he stepped in the lie that the wicked were flourishing and successful. He tripped on the deception that they had it better than he did. He was almost swallowed by the open "manhole" of discouragement.
Psalm 73:13-14 "Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency.
For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning."
He actually started believing that the wicked had it better than he did. He actually let the thoughts play in his mind that he followed God in vain. "I have wasted my time! I am over here with trials and chastening, while the wicked are living the good life! Why did I bother?!"
He believed these things until he went to the sanctuary. Then he was refocused on truth. His eyes were redirected on the target.
Psalm 73:17 "Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end."
In the sanctuary, Asaph was reminded that the wicked have and end. They seemed like they were prospering, but they were on a slippery slope. It was only a matter of time. Asaph, however, was on a firm foundation. Asaph was slipping because he chose to get his eyes off the target, not because he was on slippery ground. When Asaph got in the sanctuary, his thoughts were redirected toward truth. His eyes were refocused on truth.
Why is it so important to go to church? It's a place of refocusing. It's a place where a corporate body of believers get their minds strengthened with truth so that they can keep their eyes focused on the target... glorifying God. God is good. He has a plan and purpose for every detail in our lives, even the painful and difficult things. If we get our focus on other people, we will forget the goodness of God. We will fall into discouragement. Are you struggling with discouragement? Make sure you are faithfully getting with other believers in church and getting refocused. Purpose to keep your eyes on your goal. Stop looking around at others. Keep your eyes on Him.
Psalm 73:28 "But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works."
My dear son,
I am praying for you.
Just as David had walked the path of being king before his son Solomon, I have walked the path of becoming an adult. I understand what you face during this transition, and it drives me to my knees for you. And much like David prayed for his son, I pray for you today.
I pray that you will be dependent on God, knowing that wisdom and righteousness, right decisions and strength comes from Him. I pray that you will seek Him and that He will give you the wisdom you need. I pray that He will guide you in righteousness and that you will follow.
Psalm 72:1 "Give the king thy judgments, O God, and thy righteousness unto the king's son."
I pray that you are a Godly leader that is not afraid to take a stand for right. I pray that you care about those who have not been as blessed as you.
Psalm 72:2 "He shall judge thy people with righteousness, and thy poor with judgment."
I pray that the big and dangerous obstacles that you face each day (your mountains and your hills) would not cause you to fear. I pray that you would face them confident in the favor of the Lord because you know He is with you. I pray that as you walk in righteousness, He would bless your path through these towering trials.
Psalm 72:3 "The mountains shall bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness."
I pray that you would be a guardian to those around you in need, and that you would stand up for the weak.
Psalm 72:4 "He shall judge the poor of the people, he shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor."
I pray that those that oppose righteousness, that oppress the poor, and that hate the Lord would be gripped in fear because of you when they know that you stand in God's favor.
Psalm 72:5 "They shall fear thee as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations."
I pray that you will be a refreshing rain to those around you who thirst for truth and hope.
Psalm 72:6 "He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth."
I pray that those around you would be encouraged to be better Christians (or to accept Christ) because of the example you live, and that their lives would be impacted with peace simply because they know you.
Psalm 72:7 "In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth."
I pray that God would increase your circle of influence as you glorify Him.
Psalm 72:8 "He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth."
I pray that even your enemies will begin to thirst for truth when they see your God refreshing and watering you while their lives seem dry as the dust.
Psalm 72:9 "They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him; and his enemies shall lick the dust."
I pray God would give you favor among leaders around you.
Psalm 72:10-11 "The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts. Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him."
I pray that your heart is full of compassion and not criticism and impatience.
Psalm 72:12-13 "For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper. He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy."
I pray that you will have courage to intervene when the weak cannot defend themselves.
Psalm 72:14 "He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence: and precious shall their blood be in his sight."
I pray for God to provide you with the finances you need, the spiritual help you need, and the encouragement you need.
Psalm 72:15 "And he shall live, and to him shall be given of the gold of Sheba: prayer also shall be made for him continually; and daily shall he be praised."
I pray that the whole earth, for generations to come, will be blessed because of you.
Psalm 72:17 "His name shall endure for ever: his name shall be continued as long as the sun: and men shall be blessed in him: all nations shall call him blessed."
I pray that God will be glorified and exalted... not you or me.
Psalm 72:18-19 "Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things. And blessed be his glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with his glory; Amen, and Amen."
Last night, our family had an amazing family devotion time. We traced the children's Godly Christian heritage for them so that they could see how they arrived where they are today. On my side, their heritage starts with me. I didn't become a Christian until I was 18, and I was not raised in a Christian home. So I am considered first generation. But much like Timothy's grandmother, it has been my responsibility and privilege to start the line. (Paul traced Timothy's Christian heritage, too.)
2 Timothy 1:5 "When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also."
On my husband's side, his mother was saved as a teenager, but she didn't grow nor pass on her Christian heritage at first. His father was in the Navy and met a friend. That friend invited him to church. My husband's dad accepted Christ as his Saviour. At that time he was already married to "Gramma" and they had two young children. They had no training, but they began faithfully learning, growing, and teaching their boys the best they could. Because of their faithfulness, my husband heard the Gospel as a child. My husband accepted Christ as a preteen. Then in high school, he met me and invited me to church. I accepted Christ. We later married and had children. We passed on our Christian heritage to our children. Now the responsibility rests on their shoulders. The question is, "Are you going to continue this Godly Christian heritage, or are you going to drop the ball? Are you going to quit being faithful somewhere along the way?"
David declares, much like our children could declare, that from his youth he was taught and raised to know God.
Psalm 71:5 For thou art my hope, O Lord GOD: thou art my trust from my youth.
Psalm 71:6 By thee have I been holden up from the womb: thou art he that took me out of my mother's bowels: my praise shall be continually of thee.
Psalm 71:17 O God, thou hast taught me from my youth: and hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works.
From his youth He dedicated his life to following the Lord. He was taught and he followed in that teaching, continuing a heritage. But he didn't just stop there. He continued!
vs 6: "... from the womb... my praise shall be continually of thee."
vs 8, 15: "... all the day."
vs 14: "... hope continually..."
vs 17: "... from my youth: and hitherto..."
He continued on and was faithful!
But he didn't stop there. He talked about continuing on farther! He hungered for that close relationship to continue his whole life!
Psalm 71:9 "Cast me not off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength faileth."
Psalm 71:18 "Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, forsake me not..."
But get this: the most exciting part to me isn't that he wanted a close fellowship with God his whole life. It thrills my soul to no end that he also determined and purposed in his heart to serve God even in his old age. He didn't have a "retirement" mindset about his Christian heritage and serving God. He wasn't content just to let the young guys take over. He took personal responsibility for reaching the next generation as long as he still had breath!
Psalm 71:18 "Now also when I am old and gray-headed, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come."
Just because we grow grey headed and wrinkled, slow or bedridden, doesn't mean we stop serving. So, when the body is aging, tired, and weary, how can a person still serve God?
Psalm 71:8 "Let my mouth be filled with thy praise and with thy honour all the day."
Doesn't this next generation need to see what real worship and praise is?
Psalm 71:14 "But I will hope continually, and will yet praise thee more and more."
Doesn't this next generation need to see faith (hope... confident expectation) lived out in daily life? Don't they need to see someone who lives daily trusting in God's perfect Word, learning and growing in the Word even in old age?
Psalm 71:15 "My mouth shall shew forth thy righteousness and thy salvation all the day; for I know not the numbers thereof."
Doesn't this next generation still need to know who God is and what He has done? With a life full of stories of God's provision, protection, and providence, shall we silence those stories because we are old? Shall they not hear of a real saving faith that changed our lives?
Psalm 71:16 "I will go in the strength of the Lord GOD: I will make mention of thy righteousness, even of thine only."
In a world that fills their ears full of lies that the answers are in them and that they are strong, not needing anyone, shall we not in our old age show them the truth? Shall we not tell them that without Christ we can do nothing? Will our faltering bodies silence this truth?
Psalm 71:22 "I will also praise thee with the psaltery, even thy truth, O my God: unto thee will I sing with the harp, O thou Holy One of Israel."
Oh how our Father loves to hear us sing! The wrinkles on our brow do not distract Him as He bends to hear the singing of His praises! Shall this next generation not be touched by our heart's adoration of the Saviour in song?
Psalm 71:23 "My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing unto thee; and my soul, which thou hast redeemed."
This world is full of complaining and it seems to be a heritage that is passed on generation to generation. How do we stop it? When we are old and aching and yet we still praise Him, we declare to the next generation that God is good all the time. We spread an attitude of gratitude.
Psalm 71:24 "My tongue also shall talk of thy righteousness all the day long: for they are confounded, for they are brought unto shame, that seek my hurt."
No matter how old we get, we can pass on to the next generation the truth of God's righteousness. We can keep proclaiming His Word even on our deathbed. ALL THE DAY LONG... and every day.... until we draw our last breath. Be committed, by God's grace, to be the one who will pass on a Godly heritage to the next generation. From youth... continually now... and in old age. Don't quit.
I have a confession. My biggest pet peeve is when I cannot find something. It drives me crazy to waste time looking for something that isn't where it is supposed to be. This is especially frustrating when we are in a hurry to go somewhere. Maybe it's missing keys or a misplaced Bible. Whatever it is, I struggle having a meek and quiet spirit when the minutes tick away as we search the house for an item that should have been put in a specific place but wasn't.
My family, however, knows that I am the queen of finding things. If it is anywhere in the house, I can find it. I can find it in much less time than anyone else. Why? Because I know exactly where to look! I know the habits of my family and where they are likely to have absent-mindedly placed something. I ask them a few questions to narrow down the possibilities, and then within minutes the item is in hand and we rejoice and are glad. We celebrate and are once again at peace.
Psalm 70:4 "Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee: and let such as love thy salvation say continually, Let God be magnified."
Do you seek the Lord? He isn't misplaced. He wasn't absent-mindedly left somewhere. He actually is right where He is supposed to be. When we struggle finding Him, it is because we are looking for Him in the wrong places and in the wrong things. We look for the joy He brings in people, in circumstances, and in places. We seek Him in places and ways that He declares He will not be found. We develop our own plans, methods, and worldly/fleshly means to attempt conjuring up God. Really those things show us that we aren't looking for God. We are instead looking for a deity that lives by our terms and expectations. The true and holy God will only be found on His terms.
Imagine if my youngest child misplaced an item, a sock. I decide to help him find it. So I search for his orange Adidas sock. I look and look. For some reason, I can't find it. I go to him and tell him I can't find his orange sport sock.
"Mom, I don't have an orange Adidas sock. I am looking for my red Adidas sock!" No wonder I cannot find his sock!
Searching for God is the same thing. Sometimes we cannot find Him because we are looking for something He is not!
"Well, your red sock is in the drawer where it belongs."
"Oh, I didn't look in there." Sigh... Sorry to compare the holy Lord to a sock, but I have searched for a lot of socks in my time. The illustration was handy and easy. Yes, God is always right where He is supposed to be, but if we refuse to look for Him in the places where He is, we will never find Him. If we have misguided notions of what God is like and who He is, we will struggle in our seeking.
So exactly where can we find the Lord?
In His Word.
His Word describes who He is and what He is like. So if you are searching for God in other places, you are wasting your time. If you are searching for God, but not opening the Bible, you aren't really seeking Him at all.
Jeremiah 29:13 "And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart."
Isaiah 55:6 "Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:"