I love Christmas time. It's a very festive season in our home. I try to put some form of Christmas in every room of the house. Christmas towels, Christmas wreaths, Christmas candles, Christmas pine cones, Christmas blankets and pillows, Christmas bows, and Christmas garland. It's like a Christmas explosion. Decorating for Christmas is something I enjoy and have gotten pretty good at doing. But there is something I struggle doing during the Christmas season. I am terrible at it! Christmas gifts. When Christmas rolls around, it's like I have forgotten everything I ever knew about a person. My mind goes blank. I have no idea what to get them.
My husband, on the other hand, is the most amazing gift giver. He always seems to come up with the perfect gift. It isn't just the gift that he gets that excites me. It's the heart and attitude with which he gets the gift. He gets so excited! He carefully picks out presents based on what he knows about the person. He hunts and hunts until he finds exactly what he is looking for. When he gives the gift, he stands there with a big grin on his face, staring and waiting for the person's reaction. When the person bubbles over with joy, my husband's face lights up like a Christmas tree. You would think he was the one who received the gift!
Psalm 40:6 "Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required."
What does God want? What gift is He looking to receive? When He opens up our gifts to Him, what is He looking for?
Is He looking for an obligatory gift? Is He pleased when we give Him something that we feel we have to give?
What does He want?
Have you ever received a gift that you knew the person only gave it because they felt they had to? It wasn't heartfelt. It was merely given out of a sense of obligation. I have received those kinds of gifts. I have also given them many times. It makes me feel so shallow. And it should!
What makes my husband such a great gift giver?
1) He thinks about the person, who they are, and what matters to them.
When we give to the Lord, we need to do the same thing. What is God like? What matters to Him?
Psalm 40:5 "Many, O LORD my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered."
Do we realize how much God thinks about us? Do we realize how much He does for us each and every day? Do we realize what He has already done for us? He dotes on us. He treasures us. He loves us deeply! So what kind of gifts would matter to Him?
2) He gives out of a desire to please the receiver of the gift.
Psalm 40:8 "I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart."
David didn't do things out of obligation. He delighted in pleasing the Lord. It was in his heart! It was his passion and desire. It isn't just the gift that matters. It's the heart with which we give the gift.
What gifts does our God want? What is His desire? He wants us. He wants our hearts. He wants us to delight in Him and in serving Him.
When my husband gives me a gift, I certainly enjoy the gift, but what I enjoy more than anything is seeing the joy and excitement plastered across his face as he gives the gift. His heart is in it because he loves me.
What does our Father in Heaven want? He doesn't want us just to sing. He wants us to wholeheartedly praise Him in song.
Psalm 40:3 "And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD."
He doesn't want us to just sacrifice and give offerings. He wants us to delight in serving Him. He wants to look on our faces and our hearts and see our joy as we give to Him gifts of love, praise, trust, and service.
Do we give Him obligatory gifts? Or are we searching out the perfect gifts to give to Him with joy?
There is a scary phenomenon that happens here during monsoon season.
The streets are full of danger on a normal day, but during monsoon the dangers reach a new level of insane. One day while driving my scooter on a paved road, I reached a section that was a large puddle. My daughter was riding on the scooter behind me. The rain was pouring down and we were ready to get home and get dry. I slowed down and started driving through the puddle. Halfway through the 20-foot pond, the front tire of my scooter suddenly plunged into a deep, unseen hole. The scooter came to an instant stop, slinging me into the handlebars of the scooter and slinging my daughter into my back. I was able to keep us from toppling over, but my feet were now soaked in the muddy water. It took some effort, but I was able to get the scooter out of the hole. My hips and waist, however, were sore and bruised from the sudden jolt and stop. I was pretty happy to be on firm ground after that.
Psalm 40:2 "He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings."
David was pretty excited about getting on firm ground too! He was in a pit that caused pain and agony. God lifted him out of that pit and put David on firm ground. If we are saved, God has done the same for us! He has set us on a firm foundation. He has set us on a new path. We are new creatures in Christ. Having assurance of salvation is powerful! Knowing that I am out of the pit and established on the Rock helps me to walk confidently in Him. He has established my goings on this new path and has even given me clear instructions on how to navigate this new path. I will never again walk on that old path because He removed me completely from it! Sometimes, however, my walk mimics how I used to walk on that old path. It is during those times that I need to remind myself where He brought me from, as well as where He placed me now.
Do you remember the pit you were in?
Do you remember the day He lifted you up out of the pit?
Are you on the new path walking confidently in Him because you are sure of your salvation?
Are you walking on the new path, but acting like you are still on the old path?
David knew exactly how we feel so often. Something gets said that isn't right. Maybe it's inaccurate. Maybe it's insulting. Maybe it's offensive. Maybe it is said intentionally. You get a little heated. You just want to respond. As your heart burns within you, the temptations come.
Psalm 39:3 "My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned..."
Yes, David knew how we feel sometimes. But what did David do?
Psalm 39:1 "I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me."
David held his tongue. He knew the battle was the Lord's, not his. He knew it wasn't his job to defend himself or to bring the enemy low from his lofty perch.
What is it that makes us get into arguments on social media? What is it that drives us to verbally humble those who speak ill of us? Pride.
David knew this was a temptation for him. He chose to keep silence altogether. It wasn't that he didn't say bad things. He didn't even speak good things because he knew those things would have been said in pride.
Psalm 39:2 "I was dumb with silence, I held my peace, even from good; and my sorrow was stirred."
David finally broke his silence, but notice who he spoke to:
Psalm 39:3-4 "My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned: then spake I with my tongue, LORD, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am."
He didn't speak to the enemy. He spoke to the Lord. What did he ask the Lord to do? He asked the Lord to humble him and to help him battle his pride. He lumped himself in the same group as every other person, and called himself vanity.
Psalm 39:5 "Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity. Selah."
He was declaring that he was no better than his enemy. He was just as vain and just as needy as all other men.
Struggling to keep your silence? Are you tempted to react to someone's attack? Is your heart burning within you?
Psalm 39:7 "And now, Lord, what wait I for? my hope is in thee."
Wait for the Lord. Turn to Him. Remind yourself that you, too, are weak, sinful, and needy. Humble yourself.
"If any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him, for you are worse than he thinks you to be." -Charles H Spurgeon
Going to the doctor doesn't scare me. Getting shots does not frighten me. Having my blood drawn for blood work doesn't bother me. But do you want to know what I struggle with when visiting the doctor's office? Do you know those spring-loaded lancets? They are the finger poking things the nurses use to prick the tip of the finger. The spring-loaded ones are conveniently cocked and ready. The nurse simply has to touch the release button as the lancet is placed firmly on the fingertip. With a distinct, loud click the lancet shoots the blade into the tip of the finger. Why does that bother me? Every time I hear that click noise I jump. It startles me. No matter how much I am expecting the noise and try to relax, when I hear that loud click I jump. When a blade is being shot into your skin, that is not the best time to jump.
One day I went to visit the doctor. I had to have my finger pricked. I told the nurse, "You need to hold my hand tightly because when I hear that click I will jump." I made it a habit to warn nurses who were using the spring-loaded lancets of my reaction. Nurses would then take a death-grip on my hand and would proceed without incident. Unfortunately, this one nurse did not take my warning seriously. She held my hand, pressed the release button on the lancet, the click sounded it's deadly intent, and I jumped. What should have been a simple, small prick was now a nasty cut that sliced across the tip of my finger.
Pricks turn to cuts when you jerk away.
Psalm 38:2 "For thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth me sore."
David was being pricked. The arrows of the Lord's conviction were sticking him. It was uncomfortable. David didn't jerk away. David didn't reject. David knew God was doing a healing work in David's heart. David needed the conviction and the chastisement because he had sinned. How did David respond?
Psalm 38:18 "For I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin."
Acts 2:37 "Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?"
When the people of Acts 2 heard Peter's message, they were pricked in their hearts. The Gospel convicted them and they responded with repentance.
Later in the book of Acts the high priest, the chief priests, and the captain of the officers gave a much different response. They heard the truth about Christ. Peter and the apostles refused to stop preaching Jesus.
Acts 5:33 "When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them."
They were not just pricked. They were cut! Why? The same sword (God's Word) that pricked the people of Acts 2, cut the heart of these men because they jerked away. They rejected. They were not interested in the healing that the Lord was offering.
Stephen preached the Gospel in Acts 7, and got a similar response.
Acts 7:54 "When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth."
Those men that he preached to rejected God's Word, and Stephen became the first martyr.
Standing close by, consenting to his martyrdom, was a man named Saul. Saul was vicious in his pursuit against Christians. He threatened and pursued Christians. Yet, God was already working in Saul's heart. On the outside, he was dedicated and determined, yet God's Word was pricking his heart. When he met Jesus on the road to Damascus, Jesus confronted Saul about his response to the pricks.
Acts 9:5 "And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks."
He was not rejecting God's work in his heart. He was not cut to the heart, but he was kicking. Later he submitted to the pricks and repented. He responded to the conviction of the Holy Spirit.
What are you doing when the Word of God pricks? How do you respond to conviction?
Do you jerk away and reject? It will cut your heart and make you angry and bitter. It will cause you to lash out at those who speak the truth of God's Word.
Do you kick against the pricks? Do you fight the work God is doing?
Or do you, like David, submit to conviction?
Psalm 38:18 "For I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin."
With my oldest child starting Boot Camp in the US Army in a few weeks, my mind has been on military lately. I guess that is a pretty good mindset to have when reading through Psalms. So much of it deals with battles and enemies. David was an amazing military leader.
Every good military has a battle plan. Every good military leader communicates that battle plan to his soldiers. He doesn't tell his soldiers the whole story, but he fills them in on the part they are responsible to carry out. The leader gives precise instructions and the soldiers must follow those instructions in order to win the battle.
In life, we face many battles as Christians. The good thing is that our Commanding Officer, the Lord, has given us precise instructions on how to fight the battles. He hasn't told us exactly what He will do in the battle, but He has guaranteed us the victory if we follow His battle plan.
The TDCR Battle Plan
Psalm 37:3 "Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed."
The first part of the battle plan is to trust our Commanding Officer. Trust what?
Psalm 37:4 "Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart."
One of the greatest tactics of any enemy is divide and conquer. If the enemy can weasel his way in between the soldiers and the commander, he can create confusion. We have to be vigilant about this strategy. The Lord must be our delight. He must be our heart, our focus, our everything! He must be what brings us joy. He must be what we anticipate and look forward to. He cannot simply be a peripheral part of our lives, off on the sidelines. He must be central.
Psalm 37:5 "Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass."
To win this battle, the battle must start with a surrender. It's a complete surrender of our lives to Him. Our will, our desires, our goals, our decisions... all of it must be placed completely in His hands. How can we do that? Trust. A person who doesn't trust God will keep holding the reins of his life. They will refuse to hand those reins over to the Lord.
Psalm 37:7 "Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass."
It isn't enough just to wait on the Lord. We should wait on the Lord, but how we wait is just as important as the waiting. He doesn't want us wasting energy pacing back and forth, fretting while we wait. He wants us to rest. He wants us to grab a spiritual cup of hot tea, sit down, and rest. He really is in control and there is no need for us to worry. We need to wait patiently. He will accomplish His part of the Battle Plan. We need to accomplish our part.
Trust, Delight, Commit, Rest. That's our battle plan. That's our strategy. That's the command given by our Commanding Officer.