Like a Tree

S (Scripture) – Psalm 1:1-3 “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers!  But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.  He will be like a tree firmly planted by steams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.”

O (Observation) – Lord, when we meditate on Your law, we are transformed by it.  It’s impossible to truly seek Your face, search for truth, and come up empty.  You have promised us that if we seek You with all of our heart then we are sure to find You.  When we are not preoccupied in this life with trying to figure out its meaning, what is really real, why all of these issues arise in our circumstances, what is coming next, etc. then we can see the world around us more clearly for what it really is in light of eternity.  This confidence that can only come from our reliance on You results in a firm foundation from which to operate in our day-to-day lives.  We will not be moved.  Our roots have grown deep into the soil of Your provision and we do not question Your ability.  The streams of water nearby are Your continual times of refreshing that we cannot escape.  It is reassuring to know that even the most healthy of trees do not continuously bear fruit…yielding fruit in its season really means that there is a time for fruit to be yielded and there is a time that the fruit is to be growing.  No matter what, this leaf will not wither – despite the weather going on around us, we will continue to thrive.  Whatever this person who is dependent on You does, according to Your will, he or she will prosper.  You honor those who humble themselves and honor You.  There will be times when tragedy, illness, or adversity pummel even the most faithful of Your children.  The promise we have from You is that, through all of it, You will be with us and will ensure that ultimately, we will prosper and Your name will be made great as a result.

A (Application) – Just like we have to continuously eat food in order to remain physically healthy in our bodies, we must also feed our mind, soul, and spirit with the word of God in order to remain healthy spiritually.  We cannot just gorge ourselves one day a week with food and then starve ourselves for the rest of the week and expect our bodies to function normally.  The same is true with our spiritual appetites.  In order to experience the benefits of the psalmist’s description of a true believer living a life of peace and confidence in You, we must understand where it comes from – from being continually transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2).  As we take in more and more of the word and hide it in our hearts (Psalm 119:11), we are building up a storehouse so that in our time of need, the Holy Spirit is able to retrieve that promise and we can declare it over our families, our circumstances, and our adversary.

P (Prayer) – Thank You, Lord, for the confidence of knowing that every season is determined by You.  Help me to walk in peace knowing that my part is to seek after You with my whole heart, be obedient to what You have asked me to do, and leave the results up to You.  It is easy to fall into the trap of trying to make things happen in my own strength while inadvertently leaving You out, or to just ask You to bless my plan.  No way.  I want all that You have for me and do not want to miss out on anything You have planned.  Guide my heart, Lord.  Lead my steps.  Your word is a lamp unto my feet.

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Turn Away

S (Scripture) – Romans 16:17-18 “Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them.  For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.”

O (Observation) – Lord, the choice of words in the NASB are rich in complexity.  According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, dissensions are defined as “partisan and contentious quarreling, a state marked by a lack of agreement or harmony, and implies strife or discord while stressing a division into factions.”  Hindrances are things that “interfere or slow down the progress of someone.”  The fact is that there are people within the church that are used by the enemy to intentionally cause disruption and attempt to cripple a community of faith under the weight of disunity.  In John 17:21, one of the final prayers of Jesus was that His church would be one, even as He and You are one.  Instead of following after You and Your kingdom, these people are driven by their own desires, or appetites – the worldly and fleshly passions that can only fester when one has fallen in love with this world and forgotten who You are.  Flattering is defined as “encouraging or gratifying especially with the assurance that something is right.”  Oftentimes, the people causing dissension firmly believe that they know more about a matter than You, and in so knowing, apparently have the ability to change what is true and what is false; what is right, and what is wrong.  Isaiah heeds the warning, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”  Lastly, these people will ultimately deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting; in other words, those “unaware of any danger or threat.”

A (Application) – We need to be aware that there is a very real danger and threat at work.  The word of God is inerrant, perfect, complete, and one of the primary ways that the Holy Spirit communicates with us.  As such, it is constantly under attack by those trying to undermine its authenticity and authority.  These same people will at the very least attempt to make it seem irrelevant to living in today’s society.  The Christian worldview should be firmly rooted in the word of God.  We cannot be “cafeteria Christians,” only picking the parts of the word that we feel are true and applicable to our lives while ignoring the rest.  If something seems like it does not make sense while we are reading, make a note of it and dive deeper.  Research it.  Study it.  Pray for wisdom and the Holy Spirit will lead you to answers and explanations.  Don’t just dismiss something in the word because it seems difficult to understand.  That is how we grow and mature in the Lord – through intentionally seeking His face, wanting to know anything and everything He has to say, and trusting Him to provide the knowledge and wisdom we seek.  If someone around you attempts to cause dissension and has no interest in really knowing the truth of the word, it is best not to argue with that person.  Respectfully have a conversation and pray for them.  It is imperative to be relentless in our pursuit of truth and never lacking in grace for others; however, there is a time to discuss and a time to turn away.

P (Prayer) – Holy Spirit, come now.  Flood our hearts with truth, knowledge, wisdom, discernment, and guard our hearts from those with smooth and flattering speech that contradict Your word.  Help us to grow and mature in our confidence of the word so that whenever we hear someone proclaim “truth,” we can immediately know for sure whether or not it is.  Thank You for never leaving us and for being our wonderful Counselor on this journey of life.

Edification

S (Scripture) – Romans 15:1-6 “Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves.  Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification.  For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on Me.’  For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.  Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of your Lord Jesus Christ.”

O (Observation) – Lord, we are not in this alone.  You never designed us to live in isolation – physically nor spiritually.  We each have spiritual gifts that You have given us and we are to use them for the benefit of the body of Christ.  Each one of us has the ability to speak life into another if we are paying attention and choose to participate in the work You are doing.  To edify another is to speak encouragement and instruction out of a heart of love for that person.  You have spoken life over us and we receive it with joy.  There are times when You have placed us in the path of another so that we can be Your mouthpiece of hope and encouragement to that person.

A (Application) – Let us open our eyes to all of the people placed in our paths.  Our own family members that we take for granted, our co-workers that we spend more time with than our own family, our neighbors who we do life together with, or even the stranger that is only in our presence for a few moments…each one of them is a son or a daughter that is either lost or found, but in need of edification none the less.  We all need to hear words of truth and life spoken over us.  Let us not be so wrapped up in ourselves that we miss the opportunity to speak words of edification and gratitude to each other.

P (Prayer) – Thank You, Lord, that you are our source of hope and encouragement.  It is because of You and Your promises that we even have the ability to speak life over others.  Thank You for modeling what it means to bear the burdens of those around us and help us to follow after You.  Life can be so complicated at times.  Relationships can be marred by past mistakes or judgemental spirits.  Let us have Your eyes as we gaze upon our neighbors and give us words of edification to speak in that moment.

Each One Will Give an Account

S (Scripture) – Romans 14:7-12 “For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.  For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.  But you, why do you judge your brother?  Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt?  For we will all stand before the judgement seat of God.  For it is written, ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.’  So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.”

O (Observation) – Lord, eternity is forever; outside the bounds of time and space, we will live forever somewhere – only two options exist – with or without You.  There are some in this world that admittedly choose to not be with You due to their personal preference to rather serve themselves.  But Paul is speaking to believers in this passage.  Despite the assurance of going to heaven and living eternally with You upon our departure from this life on earth, we will still stand before You to give an account of what we have done with the time You have granted us during whatever time we had.

A (Application) – What will we say when the day finally comes for us to look upon Your face and give our account?  The funny thing is, You already know exactly what we have done and will do – this passage is a reminder to us to think with an eternal perspective.  Everything we are building in this life apart from You will be destroyed at some point.  The only lasting things that will ultimatley matter in eternity are the seeds we sow for Your kingdom.  How we choose to spend our time on this earth is up to us – may we choose wisely so that we can look forward to the day where we stand before You and hear You say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

P (Prayer) – Thank You, Lord, for this gentle reminder to choose what is right and what is better with my time.  You want us to have fun.  You want us to enjoy our families.  But You also have work for us to do.  Help us to be intentional with my thoughts, my moments, and ultimately my years so that I don’t miss out on anything that You have for me to do.

Waste Not One Moment

S (Scripture) – Romans 13:11-14  “Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.  The night is almost gone, and the day is near.  Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.  Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy.  But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” NASB

O (Observation) – Lord, the anticipation of Your coming day is the hope to which I cling.  You have commanded us to live a life worthy of our calling (Ephesians 4:1).  If we are chasing after You and Your kingdom, then You have promised to supply all of our needs, have blessed us with every spiritual blessing, and will always be with us.  Why would anyone, after knowing You and Your promises, ever want to go about life as usual – chasing after the world’s standard of success and being lured by the world’s definition of love?

A (Application) – If we knew that tomorrow was going to be the day You come again and all that ultimately mattered in our lives is what we accomplished for You, what would we do differently today?  The sun is indeed setting on this age, and Your new day is dawning.  Help us to remain focused on what is eternal and free us from the incessant distractions this world attempts to thrust upon us.  Help us to look more closely at what we are doing with our time – may we not waste one moment You have gifted to us on things that please the darkness.

P (Prayer) – Thank You, Lord, for rescuing me from the pit of darkness – where I once found myself trapped by the deeds of darkness.  You showed me how to put on Your armor of light; how to put on the Lord Jesus Christ and say, “No more.”  I walk in victory now and experience the abundant life that You promise Your children (John 10:10), only because You are able to take what is shattered and make it whole again…restoration from the inside out.

With Intention

S (Scripture) – Romans 12:9-13 “Let love be without hypocrisy.  Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.” NASB

O (Observation) – Lord, these verses are loaded with so many action verbs – words filled with passion and purpose.  They indicate movement, intentionality, and working toward fulfilling Your kingdom agenda.  They are not words that imply we should be stoic and bounce through this life day-by-day hoping that maybe we will hear some direction from You at some point.

A (Application) – It’s easy to become numb to the world around us.  Distractions abound.  Means of escape via technology are rampant.  One of the most common tactics the enemy will use against us is stealing our time – allowing us to become complacent with the comfort we may find in our lives, or thinking that maybe someday we will achieve the destiny that You have for us.  Before we know it, days, weeks, months, and then years pass by without us moving forward in accomplishing the work You have ordained for us to do during our time here.  Instead, may we be ever mindful that You have not called us to a life of stagnation, but a life of movement – in Your Spirit, our hand in Yours, one step at a time.

P (Prayer) – Lord, take my hand and never let go – guide my each and every moment.  Help me to be even more intentional with my days, my conversations, my thoughts, my prayers…rid me of complacency when it comes to my knowledge of You.  I want to spend each day pursuing Your heart, not going through the motions of this life.  In the mundane moments of life that tend to be on repeat each day, let my heart and my eyes catch glimpses even then of Your purposes being worked out all around me.  Thank You for always being a God of action and intentionality.

Who Has Known the Mind of the Lord?

S (Scripture) – Romans 11:33-36 “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are His judgements and unfathomable His ways!  For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor?  Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to Him again?  For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.  To Him be the glory forever.  Amen.” NASB

“Have you ever come on anything quite like this extravant generosity of God, this deep, deep wisdom?  It’s way over our heads.  We’ll never figure it out.  Is there anyone around who can explain God?  Anyone smart enough to tell Him what to do?  Anyone who has done Him such a huge favor that God has to ask his advice?  Everything comes from Him; Everything happens through Him; Everything ends up in Him.  Always glory!  Always praise!  Yes.  Yes.  Yes.”  The Message

O (Observation) – Lord, as humans we like to figure things out; to get to the bottom of a matter; to investigate an issue so thoroughly that no stone is left unturned.  Such is the case with our desire to send rockets into outer space in order to explore the depths of our solar system and capture images of other galaxies in our universe.  Such is the case with sending ships out on the ocean with equipment designed to reach its depths in order to photograph wildlife mankind has never observed and map out the intricacies of our great planet.  We send explorers into caves, archeologists into ancient sites, scuba divers into sunken ships, and invest billions of dollars in medical research to find solutions to this life’s ailments.  All of that intense searching is for naught if we miss You completely.  You are the One responsible for creating our universe, our planet, our oceans, our countless number of species…yet it seems we would rather explore and understand the created thing rather than the Creator.

A (Application) – In truth, my guess is that some of our world’s smartest minds seek after understanding the world around them because they have given up on trying to fully understand You, Lord.  You are far too deep, complex, unsearchable, and unfathomable…we must learn to walk by faith with You and not by sight.  You are not a controlled experiment, we cannot photograph You, disect You, and we certainly cannot stop You.  We need to be alright with knowing that we will never fully understand You.  We will grow closer and closer to You each moment we continue to crave Your presence, but we will never reach a point where we can feel that we have figured You out completely.  So many brilliant minds that push You away do so for this reason.  Yet, I would say to that person that the one, true God that created everything we see and explore today does in fact care about you deeply, wants to know you completely, and will pursue your heart relentlessly.  Who are we that You should be mindful of us?  In the grand scheme of eternity, we are but a breath – here today, gone tomorrow.  Yet, You formed us in the womb, call us Your masterpieces, and have a plan for our lives that brings others joy and gives You glory.  It’s all about You, all the time.

P (Prayer) – Heavenly Father, all I can think of right now is this song written by Chris Tomlin that speaks of the awe and wonder that can only belong to You.

“Indesribable, uncontainable

You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name.

You are amazing God

All powerful, untameable,

Awestruck we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim

You are amazing God”