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By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward. Psalm 19:11 NIV

Normally, when we hear the word warning we think negatively. A severe storm warning may send us for shelter. Flashing lights along the highway tell us to slow down, be aware, and perhaps even stop. Fine print on medicine bottles informs us of possible side effects and which side effects elicit a call to the doctor.

Those things are all good of course. They help us make decisions that will be the best for us physically. They give us a black and white scenario. If this happens, then the likely result is for ‘that’ to happen.

Unfortunately, life decisions regarding relational difficulties, job plans, and raising our kids isn’t as easily spelled out. This is especially so in our society today. When I was growing up in the 50’s and 60’s divorce and all the issues with blended families was for the most part, non-existent. Internet porn, sexual orientation, and a vast amount of the other social issues we are dealing with didn’t exist, or were far less prominent in our thinking.

The Psalmist writes, “By them your servant is warned…’. Our English language doesn’t give us a good picture of what that really means. While the word in the original language can be translated simply as warn, the primary definitions of the word revolve around enlightenment and showing clear steps of action that will lead to desired results.

A friend of mine is a volunteer fire-fighter. We were talking about fire codes one day and he showed me a book shelf in the coffee shop we were at. “Look at that shelf,” he instructed me, “now imagine it three times the size. That’s the size of our library of fire codes at the station!”

Now I can’t tell you how large that really is, but it was overwhelming to think of all the warnings contained in those volumes. Warnings that we may never think about, but are essential to keeping ourselves safe. The only way to know those codes would be to study them often and go back to them as a reference point when needed. Those books enlighten us as to the best way to stay safe from the danger of fire.

Casual perusal of those books on an occasional basis may give us a surface understanding of fire safety and the importance of following major guidelines, but the more complicated issues would be missed and could result in serious damage, injury or death.

On the other hand, in depth study of the manuals would enlighten the reader about the best possible way to keep buildings and lives safe from the devastation of fire.

God’s word is our manual for living. Although I struggle at times, like anyone else, to know the answers to some of the issues ahead of me, I believe that following God’s way is always the best way.  

God’s word gives us principles for successful living, not simple answers to complex issues. The only way to find those principles is to study it in depth and go to it often for clarification. Surface study of God’s word won’t give you the information you need to go on.

PRAYER: Father God, help me to use your book as a guide and not just an instruction manual. May my study of your Word enlighten me as to how to handle the issues of life ahead of me. Amen

The Law of the Lord is a lamp, and its teachings shine brightly. Correction and self-control will lead you through life. Proverbs 6:23 (CEV)

It was our last camping trip of the season. Mid-October camping trips are risky at best in Northern Minnesota but the need to get away outweighed the risk of bad weather. Our destination was only about 90 minutes from home but the short days still meant arriving just after dusk.

Getting the camper parked was a challenge, but once in the site I managed to get set up for the evening by holding a small penlight flashlight in my mouth on occasion in order to find get settled. I made a passing statement that it would be nice to have a light that I could attach to my head so my hands (and mouth could be free).

This Christmas my ‘prayers’ were answered when my daughter gave me a small flashlight that attaches to my cap. Now I’ll be able to work with light and keep my hands free!

Although we are months from official camping season, I’ve tried my light out and expect it will be very useful in guiding me through the dark. It has its limitations however. My little light is bright, but it won’t light up much more than my immediate surroundings. With my little light I’ll be able to see what is only a short distance ahead, so I won’t be able to discern things in the distance. My little light is focused on the direction I’m heading, not to the sides, not to what is behind me. It is designed to keep me moving forward.

My little light is a picture of God’s word. Some think God’s Word is full of useless, confining and irrelevant rules and regulations. It’s outdated and doesn’t allow freedom. I say, on the contrary! Just like my little light, God’s word is a useful guide in the dark, steers me clear of danger and assists me when I can’t see my way.

God’s word is like my light in regards to my future as well. My Heavenly Father knows my tomorrows. While God knows what I’ll be doing ten years from now, he also knows that I don’t need that information right now. I need to get through the next day, the next few steps. His word gives me all the guidance I need to keep me moving forward.

When I follow God’s rules and God’s way I don’t need to be concerned about what lies to my right or my left either. I can focus on moving ahead. The past is just that, past, done, finished. What goes on around me isn’t important as long as I’m focusing on what God wants me to do.

Lastly, God’s word allows me to make necessary adjustments to my journey. I can choose to turn my light off and go it alone. If I do so I risk injury or getting hopelessly off course. In the same way ‘having God’s word’ is useless unless I use God’s word to guide me.
God’s word irrelevant? Gods’ word confining and outdated? I don’t think so! It’s just what I need to get through the dark times of my life!

PRAYER: Thank you Father for giving me the guidance I need through your word. Empower me to live by the standards you set for me so that I can walk confidently during the dark periods of my life. In Jesus name, Amen.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. Psalm 1:3  

What does it take to be prosperous? The politician will tell you it’s more government programs or less government programs. The religionist will tell you it’s more piety and stricter adherence to rules and dogmas. Prosperity is almost always measured by what you do or what you have accomplished.

The Psalmist gives us a different picture. The psalmist tells us that true prosperity doesn’t come from listening to the ‘experts’ of the day. Rather, prosperity comes from a relationship with the heavenly Father.

A person who prospers in God’s kingdom may not have the fanciest toys; the biggest house; the most accolades tacked to the end of their names. Prosperity in God’s kingdom isn’t the corner office, the star student-athlete, the one who carries signs to bring about social change.

The Psalmist gives us a word picture of what the person of prosperity looks like. In theMiddle East, water was not always easy to find. The Egyptians and other groups learned that if they diverted the river into channels they could irrigate crops and orchards. This was a great asset during times of drought and allowed them to expand productive crop land beyond the limited borders of the streams and rivers.

In Psalm 1 the prosperous person is, first of all, planted. There is a picture of intentionality here. We aren’t just randomly placed trees along the banks of some river. We are planted. Placed where we are and when we are for a divine purpose for the glory of the Father. Trees planted near each other benefit one another.

Secondly we are planted by streams of water. The diversion of water for the trees caused a constant supply and a steady flow of life giving water that was unhindered by drought. Usually these trees were located in a valley that protected from storms. Their roots were able to grow deep, making the tree healthy and strong.

Lastly the prosperous person bears fruit in season. An apple tree is always an apple tree. From the time it sprouts from the seed until it grows to produce beautiful fruit it is an apple tree. It’s an apple tree when it’s full of leaves and blossoms, when it’s laden with apples; when it’s enduring the fall and winter cold.

Prosperity doesn’t mean we always bear fruit, it means we are always what God intends for us to be. A tree that would bear fruit constantly would grow tired, and its leaves wither. We also grow tired when we constantly try to produce the life we think God wants for us. Prosperity comes through maturity. Strength comes through rest. Fruit comes as we learn to balance the two of them.

Take a lesson from the tree planted by the streams of water. You were placed where you are at this time to glorify God. Prosperity won’t come from a bunch of activity. Rather it comes from growing in relationship with your Heavenly Father. Fruit may not come as often as you’d like, but if you are digging your roots deep into the soil of his word, it will come in season.

PRAYER: Lord, I want to prosper. Too often my view of prosperity comes from listening and walking with those whose prosperity isn’t the eternal kind you can give. Help me to dig deep in your word so that I can prosper according to your Kingdom. Amen.

Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. Ephesians 4:23-24 (NLT)

Have you ever looked at a group of people and thought to yourself “They have to be brothers/sisters, etc? Ever noticed how often a person’s pet takes on the same personality and sometimes even begins to look like their owner? Ever been in a store or restaurant and had a complete stranger come up to you and ask you if you were so-and-so’s sibling? How about the last time someone came up to you and asked if you were God?

Okay, the last one maybe not so likely since no one really knows what God looks like. The Apostle Paul encourages us though to ‘put on our new nature which we were given so that we’d look just like God’. So, just how does one even begin to look like God? Paul isn’t speaking of physical features of course but he often we are associated with the groups we belong to by our actions and behavior, not our physical features.

Beginning to ‘look like God’ involves two basic actions on our part: Passion and Presence. When you are in love with someone you want to be passionately involved in their lives. You begin to take an interest in their music, their likes and dislikes, their friends. You conversations turn from surface level information gathering to digging into the soul to see that they are really like. Passionate love isn’t blind. You look at your lover and see the faults, the glitches, the struggles. But those things don’t matter because you love them.

Passion for God means we do whatever we can to find our more about him. Although there are many excellent Christian books, authors and speakers to help us on this journey, the best source for learning about God is through his Word. Read the stories. See how God interacts with people. You won’t always understand why he does what he does, but then again, you don’t always understand your physical lover either.

The second step in looking like God is ‘Presence.’ The more you are with someone the more you are passionately in love with, the more you will naturally take on the characteristics of that person. The more you spend time with God in prayer, fellowship with others and alone time with your Father, the more you will begin to act like him. It takes time. In fact it takes a lifetime. But don’t give up. Don’t let the failures and the struggles and the stupid decisions you’ve made keep you from pursuing the one who is passionately in love with you.

God sees your faults. He sees your struggles and failures. He knows you will fail again. Like any passionate lover, he’s more concerned about spending time with you than he is your performance.

PRAYER: Father God. Thank you for being so passionate in your love for me. I don’t deserve your love. I don’t understand your actions. But my desire is to look like you. Empower me with your Spirit to make the changes needed to resemble you in my thoughts, actions and likes/dislikes. In your name, Amen.

Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path. Psalm 119:105 (NLT)

Have you ever taken something apart and tried to put it back together again? No matter how hard you try the parts just don’t seem to fit together. When you finally succeed (sort of) you have extra parts and no idea where to put them?

Or perhaps you’ve broken something of great value like a vase or plate. Try as you might you can’t seem to get it back together. Some of the parts are chipped. Some are badly splintered they no longer seem to go anywhere. You finally come to the realization that it will never be ‘back to original condition.

If you have ever had something like this happen then you have a small idea of how God felt in the Garden of Eden. He had just finished the greatest accomplishment of ‘his life’ so to speak. He’d created the universe and the planets and stars and other heavenly bodies of course, but none of that compared to the pride he felt looking at mankind. Adam and Eve were his most cherished creation.

Every night he’d visit the couple and walk through the garden with them. They’d ask him questions. He’d find out from them what new discoveries they’d made that day. I don’t think this was some stuffy, theology-laced discussion time. There was laughter. There was excitement. There was love.

Then tragedy struck. For whatever reason, as a result of the disobedience of his masterpiece creation, the relationship was destroyed. Did God want to lose his best friends? Of course not. Did he miss the walks in the garden, the camaraderie, the passion? You bet. Would he do anything at all to restore that relationship? Yep. In fact he did.

The Bible isn’t man’s story of sin, failure and destruction. The Bible is God’s story of his earnest desire to restore the relationship he once had with us. Some people read it as some owners manual or guide book. Others read it as some Theological journal or textbook. Others don’t read it at all because they don’t realize its true indent.

The mystery of our passionate relationship with God is that it’s easy enough for a toddler to understand and deep enough to confound the scholar. Try reading the Bible from God’s point of view. If you are new to the process get an easy to read version of the Bible like ‘The Message’ by Eugene Peterson. Start slow, just a chapter or so a day. Begin with the Gospels. Jesus tells us that if we want to learn about God the Father we need to learn about him first.

Before you read ask God to teach you something new for that day. Don’t just read it for answers or to prove someone right or wrong. Read it to discover that God, unlike stuffy, guilt-ridden religion, earnestly wants to restore a relationship with you that was lost years ago. He loves you. He loves you more than anything. You are worth it and the Bible is the story of his plan to get you back.

PRAYER: God, I still don’t always get it. You are so powerful and so mighty, yet you love me enough to spend all of history to try to bring me back to relationship with you. There are so many things I don’t understand about you, about myself, about life in general. Thank you for sending your letter, the Bible, to guide us in restoring our relationship with each other. Help me to read it with new understanding and appreciation. In Jesus name, Amen.

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