Walk, Keep, Walk, Keep

The Old Testament’s book of Psalms is famous for its patterns, parallels and precepts.

Psalm 119 is a lesson of how important it is to read, study and obey God’s commands. Turning from God’s law is the first step into sin. If we read, study and obey God’s word, we can keep ourselves from becoming enslaved to sin.

Verses one through four have an interesting pattern of “walk, keep, walk, keep” in the King James Version. The American Standard Version departs from the KJV in verse 4 when it uses “observe” instead of “keep,” but it is the same idea.

To “walk” means to follow something or someone. In the New Testament, the word is often used to describe conduct or manner of life. The word in Hebrew most often means “to follow.”

The word “keep” means to observe, guard, or kept close. All of the meanings are about the same kind of thing. When we keep God’s word we obey it. We use it to act as a guard for our lives and therefore it should be kept close to us at all times.

Verses six through eight tell us what benefits await those who walk and keep. It’s a statement of plain logic. IF we walk within and keep God’s word, THEN the benefits will be the following.

First, the inspired Psalmist tells us we will never be ashamed of ourselves. When we have the utmost respect for God’s word and obey it, there will be no behavior contrary to it. Shame comes when we abandon God’s word and then commit sin. Leaving God’s word is always rebellion.

Next, “I will praise you with uprightness of heart.” This follows because right doing depends upon right thinking and right thinking only comes from God’s word. It’s amazing how the world uses the word, “ought,” when it really disconnects right thinking and living with obeying God’s word.

Verse eight makes a promise. The Psalmist says, “I will keep your statutes.” So should we all make the same promise.

News Media: “Hard-wired to worry”

If there was ever any doubt on which side the news media can spin Science, there can’t be much now. NBC News reported on its website that we are “wired to worry.” Here’s link to the article: goo.gl/3FP9qa

We have evolutionary and postmodern philosophies to thank for the way the news media (and many others) think. Like alcoholism, drug abuse, smoking, sexual aberrations, and every other type of behavior that relies on voluntary muscle and brain control, we are now “hard-wired to worry.” Our anxiety is not our fault, it’s just part of our genetic structure.

The author wrote that stress, of course, is the primary reason why we become more anxious, but the next most common cause? “A second, hidden reason is biological. As stress increases overall, more of us will develop a poorly regulated stress system as a result of stressful experiences in early life, while we are still in the womb or in the first year of life. If we become ‘stress dysregulated’ (SDR), we react more often, more strongly and for a longer time.”

In other words, it is the levels of “cortisol,” and other biological markers that cause worry. Again, nothing that happens to us is our fault. If we drink alcohol, it’s not our fault we become drunks. If we smoke, it is not our fault when lung cancer comes to call. If we kill someone, it must be because we have a mental aberration and not because of conscious thought. Thanks to Science and the news media, people are quickly becoming robots and, therefore, not responsible for any action(s) whatsoever.

Jesus taught differently. He said, “So then, don’t worry saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?'” In fact, Jesus said the phrase, “don’t worry” four times in Matthew chapter six. According to the Son of God, the Creator, worry is something we do, not something that is brought upon us. There endeth the lesson.

Prayer’s Ingredients


My wife, Judy, makes the best biscuits. She starts with a great recipe, but she combines that with a truly wonderful method.

She combines flour, water, milk, shortening and adds a little yeast (or uses self-rising flour). She knows the combination of the proper ingredients will produce a light, fluffy biscuit that is melt-in-your-mouth good. No one has ever duplicated her magical biscuits.

There is a recipe and a method for the kind of prayer that God likes, too. It is found in Colossians 4:2-3. It begins with persistence. We should be devoted to prayer. We must be busily engaged in prayer. Prayer is not an emergency device like many fire alarms that read, “in emergency break glass.” It is something God expects us to persistently engage in. The apostle Paul wrote, “Pray without ceasing,” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). This is persistent prayer.

Add to persistence, vigilance. In the original language of the New Testament, Paul wrote the Colossians to “keep awake.” The King James Version reads, “watch in the same.” Prayer combined with an alert mind is an important idea. Sometimes, prayers are said without any thought. But, that is a grave mistake.

It is an alert mind engaged in prayer that helps us know what we ought to ask God, and also can help us come to realize what shortcomings and needs we really have. What better way is there to keep out of temptation’s reach than by realizing our need and asking God to meet it?

There have been too many prayers said in worship services that are nothing but “said” prayers — said without thinking. God wants us to engage our minds before we start putting our mouths “in gear.”

Then, prayer with an alert mind must be combined with thanksgiving (Colossians 4:2c). Just as dough needs to rise to make fluffy biscuits, prayer needs to be combined with thanksgiving to make our prayers rise. Look at it like this: an attitude of thankfulness shows God how much we want to please him. Sometimes our prayers don’t “get off the ground” because we’re so filled with our needs that we forget God wants us to show our gratitude (more than just once a year in November).

What follows in verse three is another interesting ingredient. We ought to pray for “open doors.” Picture the apostle sitting chained to two Romans and using this situation as a way to preach the gospel. Paul wrote the Philippians, “The whole imperial guard and everyone else knows that I am in prison for the sake of Christ,” (Philippians 1:13 NET).

Isn’t that amazing? Many people sit around and complain about an inactive evangelism because there isn’t enough money. Paul, chained to Roman guards and without a dime to his name even while he wrote Colossians said, “pray for more open doors.” Paul was interested in any possible advantage to preach the gospel even while imprisoned. How many times do you hear a prayer for an open door?

Prayer combined with all these ingredients is bound to be the kind of effectual, fervent prayer James wrote about in James 5:16. It is the kind of prayer God wants us to pray: persistent, vigilant, combined with thanksgiving and a request for open doors.

With faithful prayer like this, there can be no stopping the child of God in his work for the gospel.

When I awake in his likeness

The grasp we humans have on consciousness is tenuous at best.

Last year, a heart attack wiped out my alert and oriented level of consciousness for 45 days along with a significant portion of my short-term memory. While on the “Cath-Lab table,” I vomited, aspirated and my heart stopped beating. I awoke 45-days later.

Medical professionals used to view consciousness as either conscious or unconscious. Now, however, they understand there are levels of consciousness. Doctors and Dentists now possess a means of lowering your level of consciousness until you can’t remember what happened to you, although it may appear you were awake the whole time.

A friend of mine wrote, “In surgery, I trust the one who puts me to sleep to wake me up. The same is true in death, I trust the Lord to wake me up.” His trust in the one who puts him to sleep is misplaced. There are too many variables. I’m living proof of that.

His trust in Christ is not misplaced. We can fully trust the Creator to keep us conscious after death. The rich man and Lazarus of Luke chapter 16 both were conscious in the Hadean realm. They even had a conversation, so they were living, thinking beings.

We can rely on Christ to raise our bodies up in union with our departed spirits when he comes on the last day (1 Corinthians 15:20-21). The apostle Peter wrote of a living hope we have from the resurrection of Christ (1 Peter 1:3). Remember, Peter saw the resurrected Lord just as Paul did on the road to Damascus.

It is my responsibility now to prepare myself for that day by obeying the gospel through faith, repentance, confession and baptism and by living as a Christian. If I do that, and build my faith every day I will see God in my body (Psalm 17:15).

God will save those who obey the truth

The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works. The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them,” (Psalm 145:17-19 ESV).

God is always just, true, and righteous. He doesn’t act through preference of one over another. He always does what is right. He is always true. Those who would accuse God of acting prejudicially or presumptuously do not understand he is incapable of either.

The writer of The Pulpit Commentary wrote, “Mercy and truth meet in God. He is at once perfectly just and absolutely tender and compassionate.” But if we expect him to hear our cries, we must not deny the truth of his word. We must be willing to obey him.

Postmodernism has nothing but disdain for the objective standard of God’s word. That philosophy holds there is no objective truth or objective morals. The Lord God disagrees. The inspired Psalmist wrote, “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” If there is a God (and there is), then there must be objective truth.

To those who are willing to obey God’s word, the Almighty is near and willing to save them. Jesus said, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth,” (John 17:17 ESV). God is willing to save people from their sins, but only if they obey the truth.

You shall not bear false witness

Lying about another person is condemned in the Old Testament and in the New. Jesus, himself, condemned “bearing false witness” in each of the synoptic gospels. It’s bad enough when a person tells an untruth about what that one does. It is most terribly wrong to lie about someone else.

God took a dim view of dishonesty to begin with, but he is even more negative about those who lie about others for convenience sake. Not only did God place, “You shall not bear false witness,” in the 10 Commandments to Moses and Israel, but he also had Solomon write, “Like a club and a sword and a sharp arrow is a man who bears false witness against his neighbor. Like a bad tooth and an unsteady foot is confidence in a faithless man in time of trouble,” (Proverbs 25:18-19 NASB).

A “club” is a heavy wooden or metal hammer. It was commonly called a “mace” and was designed to beat a person’s brains out. A sword is an offensive weapon designed to slice a person’s body. A sharp arrow is one that penetrates deeply and damages internal organs. In each case, the one who lies about another is, in the eyes of God, trying to kill.

Falsehoods told about another wound and hurt reputations, spoil families, weakens relationships and sows a field of horrible things to come. One who lies to hurt another is one of the lowest kinds of people.

One who bears false witness is also like a bad tooth or a lame foot, Solomon wrote. In lying about someone else, the liar actually hurts himself. He destroys his credibility, shows the world he will say anything to gain an advantage, and proves to the world he is not worthy of any office of trust of faithfulness. Why? It’s because one who lies about another is utterly devoid of trust or faithfulness. About verse 19, one commentator wrote, “You cannot bite on the one or walk on the other.” A person who bears false witness is one who cannot be relied upon for any reason.

What the really sad thing about this person is that he didn’t have to lie!  No one held a gun to his head and forced him to lie about another. He did it voluntarily. This means that inside this lying person is a foul mind that plots and schemes foul things he doesn’t need to do, but wants to do. And that, friends, is scary.

Walls, gates, and kindness

wallSince January 20, much has been said about a wall to be built between the United States and Mexico. There have been threats made against “sanctuary cities,” with Immigration Customs Enforcement gearing up to deport “illegal aliens.”

All of this talk bothers me. Why? Because what is in the world can find its way into the church, the body of Christ. The influence of the world can have a powerful effect on people in the church and change them in ways they can’t even see until it’s too late.

Some years ago, I preached for a church that used to put a ski rope across the entrance to its parking lot. The elders were concerned with large trucks and the potential damage to the lot. I asked the elders how the rope across the parking lot looked to people traveling to or from work each day. I asked what they thought it communicated. One of the elders said, “That we’re not very hospitable.” He was right.

Many churches begin their services by welcoming visitors. Every church I’ve ever worked with did the same because we all were delighted to have people come and worship God with us. We welcomed them because we wanted them to return and be a part of the services again and again. Frankly, I’m concerned that our nation and, in time, the Lord’s church may become inhospitable places.

I cringe when I think people may hear a welcoming announcement from the pulpit that may sound like, “Welcome to the services today. If you’re an illegal immigrant please leave.”

We’re supposed to love everyone who comes into contact with us. A lawyer asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” The Lord answered with the story of a man who fell victim to thieves on the road from Jericho to Jerusalem in Luke 10:30ff. The answer to the question was our neighbor is whoever needs our help and can be helped by us.

I keep thinking after remembering the Good Samaritan of how displeased the Lord will be with us if we become haters of those who need the gospel — the very people we are charged to teach in Matthew 28:18-20 — and turn them away from the Lord’s church and back into the sinful world.

I don’t think I can face the Lord at the judgment after supporting a decision to keep the lost away from the gospel. And, that’s no matter where they come from or who they are.