Psalm 119- Thoughts & Observations

During the past several months we have been studying Psalm 119 at our Wednesday night prayer meeting. I thought I’d share some of the interesting observations our group made as we reviewed the emotions, concerns, and repeated commitment to the Lord referred to by the writer.
 
The author of Psalm 119 is unknown, but many think it is possibly David, Ezra, or Daniel. One thing that is clear, the author loved God and desperately wanted to honor Him in his life! It clearly shows us that the author experienced many struggles, but he always came back to center knowing that God was there for him. He goes through many trials and afflictions, but clings to the truths he has learned from the scripture.
 
I think this is a great lesson for all of us: even during our darkest time, God’s Word and His love never changes.
 
Interestingly, the chapter is broken into 26 sections, 8 verses per section. Each section starts with a Hebrew letter of the alphabet. Some of the words used to refer to the Word of God are; law, testimonies, precepts, statutes, commandments, judgements, word, and ordinances. Look closer and you’ll see one of these words is used in almost every verse.
 
The attributes of God that he referred to frequently: His righteousness, His trustworthiness, His truthfulness, His faithfulness, His consistency, He is eternal, He is light, and He is pure. These attributes are in just about every verse in this chapter. These words are meant as an encouragement when we go through struggles, temptations, afflictions and persecutions.
 
Take time to meditate on God’s provision and trustworthiness in Psalm 119
and I believe you will come back to center – where God is.
 
Consider praying with us on Wednesday night. We have a great time studying the word of God and a sweet time in prayer. I hope to see you soon.
 
P.S.
Psalm 117 is the shortest chapter in the Bible with only two verses. Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the bible with 176 verses.
Psalm 118:8 is the very center of the Bible and says “It is better to trust in the Lord than to trust in people.”  Amen!
 
Author:
Ken Drew, Elder at Faith Assembly
 
 

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Why Old Testament Sacrifice?

Old Testament sacrifice. It’s neither pretty, nor appealing.

In the Old Testament, God asks for sacrifices and lays out meticulous demands. Why? Why were they part of God’s covenant relationship with the Israelites? In various ways; sacrifices are obnoxious, offensive and dreadful. To the modern world, sacrifices seem violent and brutal.

Why Sacrifices in the Old Testament?
Sacrifices were designed to teach impure and imperfect people how to live in a relationship with a totally perfect and absolutely Holy God. They helped people see the nature of their Creator God, and further illustrated the reverence, respect and honor due Him. Sacrifices provided atonement for the people’s sin, through substitution. It was a picture of what was to come- Jesus ultimate sacrifice (atonement) on the cross for all sin, past, present and future.

God Repetitively Decreed He Didn’t Need Sacrifices
God simply didn’t want them if they were not completed with sincerity and a contrite, repentant heart.

If God had to choose, he prefers a right heart:

Psalm 51:16-17
You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one.
You do not want a burnt offering.
The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.
You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.

God informs us that it is an insult and an offense to bring sacrifices to Him with any kind of wrong heart:
Isaiah 1:13-14
Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts;
the incense of your offerings disgusts me!
As for your celebrations of the new moon and the Sabbath
and your special days for fasting—
they are all sinful and false.
I want no more of your pious meetings.
I hate your new moon celebrations and your annual festivals.
They are a burden to me. I cannot stand them!

To do so is hypocrisy, a sin God thoroughly hates. Jesus pronounced His strongest indictments against hypocrisy in Matthew 23, when he criticized the religious leaders of the day.

The Significance and Application for Christians Today
1. Jesus taught that sincerity and authenticity were God’s principal need in worship.
John 4:23-24
But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.
 
2. Sacrifices are a reminder that each of us contributes to the evil in our world. It demonstrates that something must be done… and we must do more than conveniently question why God allows sin. For if God were to remove all evil, none of us would continue existing!
 
3. God gave instructions for whenever sin was “unintentional” or “in ignorance”. This was because even when done in ignorance; sin still pollutes, poisons, and brings judgment. This thought runs contrary to modern rational.. the thinking today that sin does no harm when it’s between “consenting adults”. God called for sacrifice because sin’s destructive effect still poisons, defiles and hurts though done in ignorance (or unintentionally). These sins poisoned, defiled, and hurt the person, his family, society; indeed they hurt the very environment and the community as a whole. Any cries of blamelessness due to ignorance did nothing to stop or cancel the destructive effect of sin or halt its judgement. While sympathetic to a person being in ignorance, God in His wisdom knew all of this and provided guidelines to address it to protect His people.
 
 
Biblical Sacrifices Taught These and Many More Lessons.
Today, because of Jesus death and resurrection, we are asked to sacrifice in different ways- not for atonement- but rather to give up our lives for the sake of Christ. This is the new covenant. We sacrifice daily because of our love for Jesus and gratefulness for the grace we’ve been given. We sacrifice by giving up our rights, serving others, working to build His kingdom, denying our old nature and choosing God’s will and way.
 

God’s nature has not changed and never will. He is holy, and we are still impure and imperfect people. Thank you Father for Jesus! He is our sacrificial Lamb, and now we live in a new covenant with God!

 
May the Lord continue to teach us how to live in relationship with a totally perfect and absolutely holy God. Let our prayer be that our lives continue to give Him all the reverence, respect and honor due Him.
 
Author:
Pastor Liandro Arellano
Christ-Follower, Husband, Father, Grandfather and Retired Pastor at large

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Soul Tattoo- What Defines You?

The Scripture is full of references that talk about the soul and the spirit.
It’s so important in fact, that the Old Testament mentions it over 785 times and the New Testament over 103 times.
 

It’s pretty clear that in God’s big story for mankind, our souls- the essence of our inner most beings- is important to Him- so important that He sent His son to die for our sin, our weaknesses, and our shame. Our soul is the thing that makes us unique. It’s how we relate to others and how we understand ourselves. It comprises who we are.

Often our souls feel like a roller coaster- sometimes weary or unsure- sometimes comfortable, content or even at peace. We all have invisible tattoos (so to speak) that make an imprint on our souls… earthly things that work to define us. They may have been in the past or are currently influencing our perspectives.
They can make a mark so deep that the imprint may feel like it will last forever.

So the question is this: what defines you?

Are you allowing your past, your education, your mistakes, your job, your talents, ministry, kids, marital status, successes… whatever- to define who you are? The world would project this onto you… especially your failures! This should not be! You see friend, when we allow these things to define who we are, we have embraced a false identity. We are then allowing everything but God to define our worth.
 
This is why God says we must examine our hearts.
 
He knows that if we embrace a false identity, we are vulnerable to the enemy’s schemes and lies. This leaves us vulnerable to the many traps the enemy of our souls delights putting right in our path. He loves to plant seeds of self doubt, confusion, relationship drama, unforgiveness, bad decisions, selfish pride or self-hatred… even disobedience to the God we say we love.

But with God’s Truth, He tells us that if we place our soul identity in Him, nothing can touch the essence of who we are! When we believe on His name and claim Christ as our Savior, we are a new creation found in Christ Jesus. No longer do we have to be defined by those old things. We are now sons and daughters of the King of Kings!

Hebrews 6:18-19 says
“Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us.
This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls…”
 
This Truth of our identity isn’t always something that we “feel”… but rather God’s Truth that we must choose.
 
2 Corinthians 1:20-22 (MSG)
Whatever God has promised gets stamped with the Yes of Jesus. In him, this is what we preach and pray, the great Amen, God’s Yes and our Yes together, gloriously evident. God affirms us, making us a sure thing in Christ, putting his Yes within us. By his Spirit he has stamped us with his eternal pledge—a sure beginning of what he is destined to complete.

Because of God’s overwhelming love for us, it’s that same love that will transform our souls into something beautiful, confident, at peace and blazing with purpose. This is the ultimate miracle- the transformation of the very essence of our being!

Let us make our “soul tattoo” permanent once and for all, by…
1) knowing the Truth
2) embracing the Truth
3) practice the Truth daily
4) make the Truth known as a testimony for God’s glory
 
For if we can run with the Truth of who we really are in Jesus– nothing…and I mean nothing-
will stop us from fulfilling the destiny God has planned for us to fulfill!
 
Author: 
Michelle Marx
Wife, Mom and Lover of Jesus
You can read more of Michelle’s writing at Pianogirl Speaks.

 


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Thoughts on Preparing For the Ultimate Marriage

Perhaps the most important part of God’s creation story is the institution of marriage and family in Genesis 1- 2. In this first book of the Bible, God creates man and woman, telling them to be fruitful and multiply. This final act of creation represents the very first marriage relationship and nuclear family. In this, we can see how God was beginning to create His Church.

The “Church” is referred to as the bride of Christ- the ultimate picture of relationship.

 
This includes all those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God- the essence of the gospel- and are committed, loving, and living for God. Revelation 19: 7 (the last book in the Bible) speaks to the ultimate marriage relationship when it states,
“Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready.”
Jesus is the Lamb of God, who was identified in the gospel of John: “Look, the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”
 
So if the beginning of the Bible establishes the first marriage and the end of the Bible represents the last marriage, it’s the in-between marriages, families and relationships that are needed to prepare the Church to be the bride of Christ, our church family.
 

This is the hard part and little messy too… okay, a lot messy!

The Church and its people are not perfect, and won’t be until the ultimate redemption and reunion of the bride with Christ, the Bridegroom.

 
We should however desire to be more like Jesus, and take actions needed to move from the first marriage and our in-between relationships to the church family becoming the bride of Christ. This is done in part by progressing beyond solely our earthly family to the church family as adopted sons and daughters of God. Every marriage and family has challenges that threaten their existence, and the crisis of the family is sadly more common now than at any time in human history.
 
Today’s local church must be the bridge- the connection between the first original marriage and the last and final marriage relationship. As Jesus is our hope, the local church (the bride) is the hope of the world as it plants, cultivates, harvests and nurtures people to full Christian maturity.
 

Our earthly relationships are meant to be a (albeit imperfect) picture of the ultimate (perfect) relationship with Christ, with the glory of God flowing out of our marriages, singleness and family relationships.

 
Let us make the decision today to know God… really know God… through the redeeming power of Jesus Christ. It is He who strengthens relationships and builds His Church through imperfect people who are deeply loved by an amazing God.
 
Author: 

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Intentional Spirituality | Focused Meditation

On my hour or so drive to work, I often recite a medley of various scripture verses that begins with Psalm 1.

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the council of the wicked, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of mockers, but his delight is in the law of the Lord and on it he meditates daily…

I try to avoid recitation of the scripture becoming just part of my driving routine.

 

To help with this, I meditate on the words to understand better what God intended in giving them to us.

Pastor Jon would say, “Let them marinate.”

 
No matter how many times I recite the first two verses of Psalm 1, I always find it fascinating (and incredibly helpful) to be reminded how the subtle progression of sin can take over our lives. Of course this includes my own life, to the point of even becoming comfortable with it.
 
Take a look at this progression as shown in this Psalm, using physical activity and the laws of physics:
 
Psalm 1 speaks to a person first walking, then standing, then sitting.
When we walk we can decide to move left or right, or even turn around with our momentum requiring less energy to change direction.
But then we stand, requiring a bit more energy to get moving again.
Finally, when we sit down, it takes even more energy to get up and get moving.
 

So too is the progression of sin. It can look like this:

 
  1. We look to the crowd- the world- and start listening to their advice (…council of the wicked)
  2. We justify wrong behaviors, instead of evaluating the advice of God’s absolute Truth
  3. We begin to slow down, stop to accept the advice, believe all the lies and do what the ungodly do (…stand in the same way as sinners)
  4. After sinning repeatedly and ignoring the conviction of the Holy Spirit, we begin to sit comfortably in the sin, justifying behavior we know is wrong and often even begin to defend the behavior to others or in secret (…sit in the seat of mockers)

 

But then Psalm 1:2 goes on to say …but his delight is in the law of the Lord and on it he meditates daily. So while the Psalm warns about the propensity for sin to creep in to our daily lives, verse 2 tells us that by being in the Word (the Bible) we delight in the law of the Lord.

This means that by being in the Word consistently, we are directly connected to the Source of Life itself.

We are not just understanding absolute Truth, but actually delighting in it!

 
The other critical aspect of this verse is meditating on it every day.
Making the time- and being consistently intentional- is crucial, and is also hard because it takes discipline.
 

Eighteen years ago I didn’t look forward to my long drive to work, but I can now say that this drive continues to be a real blessing. It has provided the time I may not have otherwise carved out for my daily spiritual feeding and meditation. My time in the car encourages my intentional and focused discipline and draws me closer to my Savior.

We eat physical food each day to stay physically nourished. How much more important is our spiritual nourishment!
How do you carve out time from your busy schedules for your spiritual feeding?
 
Author:
Randy Ortgiesen is a Husband, Father and Grandfather
who loves Jesus and serves as an Elder at Faith Assembly.

 

 


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Defining Truth

Truth as defined by Webster is that which is true and in accordance with fact or reality; accurate or exact.
 
In the 1828 yearly edition of Webster, definition for the word truth even quotes Jesus in the gospel of John stating “Sanctify them by your truth father, your word is truth.”
 
The Bible states, “If teaching or advice is true, then it will agree with the words of Jesus. Luke 9:35
 
Disciples Peter, James and John actually heard God audibly at Jesus baptism,
“This is my son, whom I love, with Him I am well pleased, listen to Him.”
 

These days, we often hear statements like “Truth is what I define it to be.”

 
Regrettably, comments like these are a common way of thinking… that each of us can define our own truth.
This comes from a belief that truth is not an absolute, but rather relative to an individual’s way of thinking.
Without absolutes, right and wrong can not only be defined however we want it, but can change when convenient.
 
Perhaps we believe it’s okay to steal since it is needed, it’s okay to lie if we don’t get caught or
it’s okay to view inappropriate things on a computer since it’s private. I say no. No, no, a thousand times no!
Until we discover God’s truth as revealed by the Holy Spirit, this can be seemingly acceptable behavior.
 
All truth is God’s truth. He doesn’t use it to hold us back, but to create loving boundaries for our good.
 
God provides the absolutes for living a life that is not only pleasing to Him, but also contributes to a healthy society. Without moral absolutes, actions become chaotic and each person lives only for themselves. Acting on truth is a choice, and like many choices God allows us to make influences how we interact with people and God. If we agree it is only God’s Word that reveals truth, then we behave one way and it is noticeable. If our behavior is not based on God’s truth, this too is noticeable…. by a spouse, by a child, by employers and by God.
 

So how do we define truth? Not by the world’s standards,

what our friends say or what’s fed to us by the media.

Only by the Word of God.

 
As Christ followers, let’s tighten the Belt of Truth and put on the Armor of God!
We can’t act on truth- or even model it- until we personally discover it, and then choose to do what is right.
 
Author:  Randy Ortgiesen is a Husband, Father and Grandfather
who loves Jesus and serves as an Elder at Faith Assembly.

 


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