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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Would You Follow Christ If You Never Received a Thing from Him?

I have heard sermons which indicate that God will give you more than you give Him. They go something like, "If you will give, God will give you ten times as much in return! You just have to prove your faith by giving!"

Is that faith or just gambling? It looks to me like you are putting in your quarter (or whatever goes in a slot machine), pulling the lever and hoping that you will hit the jackpot. The preacher is assuring you that you will win and trots other people before you to tell stories of how they won. It looks a lot like the lottery companies who show the pictures of winners without revealing the millions who lost.

Do you really think that God wants us to give so that we'll get something out of it? Do you suppose that God may want us to give just because we love Him?

Would you continue to worship Him if He never came to your rescue during a crisis? Would you continue to give if you never received anything that you didn't earn from hard work?

Every parent knows how their children will sometimes show love toward them when the children want something. Occasionally, this attitude doesn't bother parents but it gets really old really fast when that's the only time the children come around.

Do you think God gets really tired of a people who only come to Him to get something?

I want my faith to be worth more than that. I want it to be more than an effort to get things from God. I want it to exist even in the driest days of my life. I want to keep worshiping even if I hear only silence, keep giving if I receive nothing, keep believing even if I walk through the valley of the shadow of death and keep serving even if it brings me nothing but hardship. I want my faith to have my full devotion even if I never receive a thing from God.

It doesn't seem to take much faith to believe when you are expecting some amazing reward for your belief. Great faith is when the reward is seeing His face without looking to see what might be in His hands.

Philippians 3:7-8 (ESV)
7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

All Cookies and Candy But No Vegetables

Many of the sermons I hear by tv preachers are saying that God's main desire is that we are comfortable. I find that hard to believe. This just isn't God's pattern.

Abraham would have been a whole lot more comfortable if he had stayed in the land of his father. God moved him to the land of Canaan which was his inheritance but the journey was far from comfortable.

Moses could have been a shepherd for the rest of his life but God called him to lead His people out of Egypt. It was a very difficult task which lasted a long time with a great deal of hardship. I believe Mosese would have been more comfortable doing what he was familiar with.

Daniel went to a lion's den, Elijah confronted a king and Paul was called to write most of the New Testament in prison. These examples do not scratch the surface of all those who have been called by God. Each one was called to leave his or her comfort zone to walk with God. Why should we believe that His main desire is that we are comfortable?

Rather, this is the pattern of someone who does not want to walk with God. It is the pattern of immaturity. It says that it only wants to hear the sermons on God's deliverance and not on God's judgement. It says that it only wants to hear the stories of Jesus and not those of Job. It is immature because it wants all cookies and candy but no vegetables.

God is not interested in our comfort it that comfort fails to bring us close to Him. He desires true fellowship with us rather than merely seeing us maintain a carefree lifestyle. He is like the parent who says that they want to give their child enough so that he can do anyhing but not so much that he can do nothing.

Let's face it: Even the struggles are good for us as long as they bring us closer to our Lord. God is not a one-dimensional person with a casual regard for us. He seeks to bring us to maturity. It takes the whole Word of God and the struggles and triumphs. It is interaction with the people who build us up and those who wish to tear us down. It is doing what we can do and working with us to do what we could never do. It is building faith through the daily walk which sometimes causes us to stumble and skin our knees.

It is interesting that many Christians do not see the flaws in trying to stay exactly where they are. They want to stay in the same location the rest of their lives without giving God permission to lead them to a new place. They want to read the same scriptures again and again rather than read the whole Bible. They want to believe in a God whose main desire is to make them comfortable. They want to remain childish all their lives.

We should embrace the challenges God places in our lives for we really can't call Him Lord if we do not go where He leads. We cannot truly grow properly as long as we lack the struggles. We just can't grow up on cookies and candy but no vegetables.

1 Corinthians 3:1-2 (ESV) 1 But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready,

Monday, June 27, 2011

What Would Make Us Seek God?

The Bible is very clear that no one has sought after God.

Romans 3:11-12 (ESV)
11 no one understands;
     no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
        not even one.”

Then, why does the Bible also tell us to seek God while He may be found?

Isaiah 55:6 (ESV)
6 “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near;

The answer must be that God is putting the desire to seek Himself in the hearts of each of us. We are given the opportunity to do something we would not naturally do without His intervention. We are seeking because He has sought us. We are seeking because He is claiming us.

Yet, do I need to understand this so far as to believe that I have no choice in the matter? Absolutely not! God has given me a heart to do anything He asks of me but I have always been able to resist the Holy Spirit, quench the Holy Spirit and and fail to be filled with the Holy Spirit. I have committed sins that I know to be wrong as soon as I have done them. I have wondered why I committed these sins but I have known that I committed them even though the Spirit was urging me to do something else.

God reaches out to me. He is the Shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine sheep to look for the one who is lost. He is the Father who waits patiently for His son to return home. He is the One who makes my spirit alive so that I may have a relationship with Him. He is the One who calls me by the actions of others who cross my path. He is the One who uses the circumstances as divine providence to bring me home to Him. He places that yearning in my heart to seek Him.

But, I can always reject it. I can always go my own way. I can always look so intently at the things which take me away from Him and go my own way.

Maybe this is why the Psalmist says,:

Psalm 119:176 (ESV)
176 I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your commandments.

The Psalmist is crying out for God to seek him. I suspect that that cry alone is evidence that God is already seeking him. How else would anyone ever seek God unless God sought him first?

That makes 1 John 4:19 make all the sense:  "We love because He first loved us."

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Christian Minimum Commitment Rule

Most of the time you should keep the minimum commitment rule. In other words, don't commit more resources to do any task or activity than it takes to do it well. This rule applies as long as you know that you can define "well."

Car dealers often present television and newspaper ads of cars with unbelievably low prices. The naive person thinks this is the minimum commitment required to buy a new car. They run down to the dealership to find that the car which has been advertised has already been sold. The "new car seed" has already been planted. The dealer shows what he has for "just a little more." In fact, the payments will be only a few dollars a month more if they are stretched out for another year. The person is sucked in by their own naive belief that cars could be that cheap. They are captured by that dealer by raising the minimum commitment. Lots of people buy cars they can't afford this way.

Many Christians look at their friends and believe that the minimum commitment is what the average of their friends are doing. They have very little desire to become God fanatics. They just want to be normal believers who take some of their sense from the world as well as some religion from God.

That would be find it we were the people who could determine what the minimum commitment is. However, the car dealer determines the price and, therefore, determines the minimum commitment. He or she can do so because it is their dealership. They own it and know what they can sell a car for and make a profit.

The relationship with God is determined like any relationship is. The relationship with a spouse is determined by what that spouse requires for the relationship to continue. The relationship with any friend, any employee or employer, any child or parent or anyone we want to have a relationship with is determined by the mutual agreement of what it takes for the relationship to exists. In other words, we can't be the only ones who determine we are going to have a relationship with God. He has some say about the minimum commitment rule.

Micah had something to say about this. He recorded the Lord's requirements:

Micah 6:8 (ESV)  He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

This is a whole lot more than simply acting like our Christian friends if they are not doing justice, loving kindness and humbly walking with their God. It means that they don't have much of a relationship if this is the Lord's requirements (minimum commitment) and they are not meeting them.

I suppose this is the reason that many people haven't heard from God in a very long time. Yes, they made a decision to follow after Him but have forgotten that it required them to really be close to Him. Following doesn't let the one you are following get out of sight.

So, many Christians will go to church tomorrow, sing songs or not, pray or not, give or not, listen or not and never worship for one minute. They can't because that would require a relationship that they simply do not have. Yet, they may pat themselves on the back saying, "There, I've done my religious activity for the week. I've met my obligation. I feel good about myself."

They should be asking themselves why they didn't hear from God . . .and no it wasn't the preacher's fault. It was their own lack of doing justice, loving kindness and humbly walking with God that closed their ears.

I pray that everyone who reads this will worship a Living God who speaks to them freely because they have made a commitment to Him.

Yes, it is the minimum commitment but it takes everything they have to make it.

Friday, June 24, 2011

What If You Only Believed You Were at Home?

A couple of years ago I was called to visit a member of my church who had been rushed to the emergency room of a nearby hospital with a broken hip. I was already in bed and had taken pain medication for my back. The medicine had not taken effect yet so I reasoned that a quick roundtrip to the hospital would be possible before I started to get  fuzzy. The hospital was about five minutes from my house and I immediately went to the emergency room. While there, the patient's wife asked me to stay with her husband so she could handle another matter. She was gone about twenty minutes. I said my prayers with the patient and his wife knowing that I was beginning to feel the effects of the medication. I was sure I could get home without any difficulty since I lived so close to the hospital.

I really don't know what went wrong but I soon found myself driving past houses that I didn't recognize. I said to myself, "I don't know where I am," then, I giggled a bit and said out loud, "And I don't care!"

Fortunately, I managed to concentrate hard enough to find my way back home.

This morning I wondered: Are most Christians deluded in believing they are in the middle of God's will when they are actually somewhere else? Do they believe they are at home with the Lord when they are simply satisfied with being lost?

This is a clever deception. It would allow King David to think that he could still have a vital relationship with God even though he had committed adultery, lied and had a man killed. We wonder how he could get so far away from God and not know it. But look around at those Christians who gossip, backbite, cheat and lie who may be deacons or teachers at their churches. Do they really believe that they have a great relationship with God? I, personally, know that they don't but I believe they don't care.

King Josiah had the law read in his presence. It had not been read in a very long time. He heard how he and his people were violating God's desire for His people. He tore his clothes in anguish over the distance he and his people had been with God. He needed a wake up call for he, no doubt, believed they were in a great relationship with God until the law was read.

Have you ever had a dream that was so real that you aren't really sure that it didn't happen? Most dreams drop from our memories within minutes of waking but some have made such a strong impression that they remain behind. You were perfectly convinced that the dream was real when you were in the dream. You have awakened and can't be sure that it didn't really happen.

Could it be that many Christians are dreaming that they are in a perfect relationship with God while they are really far from Him? Do they think that going to church and talking about God is all there is to their faith? Have they forgotten that God also speaks to His children specifically? Do they know their own condition?

How else can you explain a people who go to church but don't change?

Isaiah 1:13-20 (ESV)
13 Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations— I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.
14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them.
15 When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.
16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil,
17 learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.
18 “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land;
20 but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Conviction, Confession, Commitment

Baptist do not spend much time with these topics. We like guilt more than conviction, penance better than confession, and compliance rather than commitment. Thus, our sermons seem to say, “You are a guilty sinner who must walk down this aisle so that you can be like the rest of us!”

But this not the desire of the Living God. He wants us to be forgiven and in His presence. He wants us to be in the middle of His will. He wants us to be with Him forever. He did not send Jesus to die so that we would stay perpetually guilty. He has no desire to see our penance for something we could never pay for. He does not care if our morals are the same as those around us. He wants us, not our remorse for the things we have done.

So, we understand His word and conviction comes. It may include a measure of guilt but its purpose is to bring us to confession. Confession is not revealing to God what we have done wrong. It is calling it sin, admitting who is at fault and realizing it has ultimately been an affront to God.

Godly confession pushes us to a new commitment. It is called repentance. It may take an effort to turn away from the sin and go the right direction. This is why it cannot be casual. It cannot be simply expected because we have felt so guilty for what we have done.

I have heard many people ask me why they keep doing the same bad things. They call them mistakes. That’s their first problem. Sins are not mistakes. Mistakes are efforts to get things right which go wrong. Sins are moral failures.

There will always be an estrangement between God and His people as long as sin is present. There will always be fellowship with a people who when convicted confess and commit to Him. The really sad condition is when people think that their distance between God and themselves is normal. They think that no one really “hears” God because they have never heard Him.

Thus, their lives are fearful of death because they haven’t spoken and heard from the One who will ensure that heaven is real. They clamor for books which tell of a real heaven. They long to hear stories of those who claim to have been there. They are trying to build their faith upon the testimony of others. However, others’ testimonies are always theirs. No one can make someone else’s testimony their own.

Our faith would not amount to much if we are merely average Christians. The average Christian admits that he has not had any contact with God. He bases His whole faith on walking down the aisle, baptism or some other overt act rather than the presence of Christ in him.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

1 John 1:5-10 (ESV)  
5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Has the Average Believer Forgotten That Jesus Is Coming Back?

People laugh at the predictions of believers who give the date when Jesus will return. The Bible says that Jesus wasn't given this information when He walked on the earth. It seems to be a very closely guarded secret that no one walking on the earth should know. However the clear teaching of the New Testament is that Jesus is coming back.

Most Christians may politely tip their hats at this prediction but live as if it isn't true. They are very casual in their serving, giving, attending, devotions and acting differently than non-believers. They are like children who believe the teacher will not return. They are rowdy and unconcerned with what they are doing. They do so because they do not believe the teacher will arrive at any second.

The church is spiritually anemic without a healthy expectation of the immanent return of Christ. There is no anticipation, nor holiness sought so as to be ready. There is no urgency to tell loved ones the gospel because there is always plenty of time. Prayer is avoided because there is no urgency to see the Lord work. Mere mortals can do a whole lot if given enough time.

The time of Christ's return will be sudden. There will not be time to get ready once He comes. The closeness of the people working will not help. It will not be that a person can do what another person is doing and be taken with Christ. It will be the heart that will reveal who will go.

My fear is that the coming of Christ will not hinder the activity of many churches. There will be so few taken that the church can still function with committees, worship and preaching. The church members will wonder what happened to others. Few of them will suggest that Christ has come.

I want to be personally ready every day for the coming of Christ. It may not happen in my earthly lifetime but it will happen.

Jesus said he was coming back. He said it Himself.

Matthew 24:40-42 (ESV)
40 Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. 42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Making the Temporary Permanent

Our church needs to replace a building. The intention was to replace it many years ago with a better structure. It still exists forty years later. It is hard to let go of that which you have in order to do what you need.

Anyone who doesn't believe in eternal life should look at a program created in a Baptist church. The program is still going many years after it is dead. It may have no relevance, effectiveness or purpose but it will be carried on. It has become a permanent structure.

It was said that one Baptist church was initially able to stop having their Sunday evening services without any protest. Three months later the deacons found out and it was quickly brought back!

It is human nature to get comfort out of things. We like the grocery store we have always shopped in. We feel comforted that the items we buy are of the same brand, on the same aisle and are checked out by the same person. We get upset when a chain buys the Mom and Pop store. We feel that the corporations are impersonal. It doesn't matter that the corporations are able to buy in such volume that our overall grocery bill shrinks. It doesn't matter that Mom and Pop are now able to retire. We want our places, people and things to remain permanent.

Is this why it is so hard to grow old? We fully remember what it is like to be young. We remember doing things that we can't do today. Somehow, our hearts tell us we still can. Our minds tell us something different.

So, we hold onto everything we can. Some will refuse to use a computer because this represents a change they do not want to accept. Some will keep broken items in their houses without throwing them out. Some remember the "good ole days" without remembering the "good ole problems" they had.

Christians should know that this world is not our home. We should know that we should not make it permanent. We should know that God is a God of change for He seeks to change us daily. We should know that He will change our location someday to where He is.

This life is not permanent. In fact, even most of the things in this life are not permanent. We shouldn't try to make them such.

1 Corinthians 15:51-52 (ESV)  
51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52  in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Am I a Fool?

Am I a fool? I must admit that I fit the description.

Last year I rode in the MS Bike Ride on Virginia's Eastern shore. The ride has various lengths. I participated in a one day sixty mile ride. I had not spent one minute training. I aired up the tires, put the bike on the back of the car and drove to the ride. I got there a little late and rode as hard as I could to get into the middle of the pack. I passed everyone for thirty miles. I tried to keep up the next thirty miles. My legs cramped. Everyone who approached passed me. I barely made it in.

I promised myself that I would train. I was going to get in shape for such a ride.

Yesterday, I aired up my tires. This morning I put the bike on the back of the car and drove to the ride. That was the extent of my training. Do I need to say that I am in a world of pain right now?

I did exactly what I said I wouldn't do. I repeated what I said I wouldn't do. I sure have acted like a fool.

Here is a novel idea to end much of our problems: Stop doing the wrong things and start doing the right things. Learn from your mistakes. Take action so that you don't repeat them.

How hard is that?

I've got to stop now. I have a cramp in my leg.

Proverbs 26:11 (ESV)
11 Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Why Don't Christians Pray?

Why is a prayer meeting the lowest attending meeting of the week if prayer is so powerful? Why is it that prayer meetings are led by staff members rather than the pastors of large churches? Why is it that people want to tell their woes but rarely want to engage in serious prayer concerning them?

I don't believe that the average Christian understands prayer. Most don't know how to pray. Many can't sit still long enough to pray.

Prayer is not asking God to do something against His will. Prayer is joining God in His will. It is acknowledging His power, love, omniscience and omnipresence all at once. It is giving your will to Him as you ask for the things that will give Him glory. It is faith which is not limited by the size of the request. It takes true commitment to God.

Few people are willing to seek God in this way. Few will, therefore, pray like God is truly able to answer. Therefore, they tip their hats in polite respect but do not enter into His presence. They are as A.W. Tozer once said, "politely bored with God." Prayer is a boring activity for those who will merely bow their heads and say things that they don't truly believe.

True prayer is faith applied.

1 John 5:14-15 (ESV) 14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

How Big Is Your Universe?

Scientist tell us that the universe is expanding. I beg to differ; I see it collapsing on everyone!

The size of the universe shrinks according to any activity. A lady behind the wheel of a car may limit her universe to the cars in front of her and everything inside her minivan. Let the cell phone ring and the universe contracts further. Her world disappears into the phone and everything else is outer space. Now, there is nothing beyond the bumper.

The same is true for a man watching his team on Sunday afternoon. His universe collapses around his tv. He is largely unaware of the recliner, how many beers he had downed or whether or not there is a tornado looming outside his house.

We travel from universe to universe and make each one fit within our willingness to observe.

I watched one of the news channels challenge a specific political party's failure to increase the number of people working. The spokesperson would not admit that there were more people unemployed now than there were when they took charge. The person would not admit to the absolute truth of numbers. His universe was limited to saying that everything we have done is right and everything everyone else has done is wrong. I wondered if this was the party of idiots. No, they are depending upon a collapsing universe.

Truth has become believing what others believe. Their strategy is to tell so many people what the universe looks like that their constituents will make this their universe. It won't matter what the real universe looks like. It will be the universe of their party. The strategy is pure genius.

Only a few people really look at the stars. Many who observe the stars only see them as shining flecks in the night sky. Few people know their names, where they are and what galaxy each is in. Most people can't see many of them because they live in cities which prevent them from observing the stars. Thus, the stars are not in their universe.

Many of the very religious people in the New Testament could not accept Jesus. Their universe was limited to their religious teaching. They either had to open their eyes to the possibility of a new universe or they had to deny that it existed. They couldn't live in two universes at the same time.

People are no different today than then. We grow up creating our universe. We decide what things will go in it and what we will reject. We limit it to what we like and what we dislike. We hate being left out of our social groups so we generally accept the known universe of those groups. Sometimes that keeps us out of trouble.

The size of your universe may also keep you from missing things that God has intended for you. It opens up to things we would never have considered. It changes our careers and our home towns. It sends us to do things that we thought we could never do. It is a limitless universe.

Do you want to stay safe within your universe or do you want it to expand exponentially? It is a little scary to think that you can do more than you know you are capable of doing.

It is exciting too!

John 14:12 (NIV) 12 I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Is Only Observable Sin Truly Sin?

I am fascinated with science. I am currently reading the book, Parallel Worlds by Michio Kaku. The author makes theoretical physics so simple that I can understand. (That is everything but Quantum Theory!) Much of it makes me wonder if there is an inexplicable connection between science and morality.

For example, the uncertainty principle says that the location and speed of electron cannot be known at the same time. If you know the location, you can't know the speed. If you know the speed, you can't know the location. Quantum Theory springs out of this principle. Succinctly, the micro-universe does not act like the macro-universe. This contradicts Newtonian physics. It destroys some of the science which has been considered absolute.

People began saying that there is no absolute truth soon after this theory was postulated. Did this theory have an affect on theology? Did people see the world differently after hearing this theory? Or is this merely a coincidence?

Dr. Kaku asks a long established question: "If a tree falls in the forest and there is no observable presence, does the falling tree make a sound?" The conclusion he leads us to is that only observable events truly happen. In other words, our presence (or surrogate presence from a recording device) is the only means of verifying an event. Thus, the event only happens if we are there.

Of course, that can ruin the career of a theoretical physicist like himself. Theoretical physics is . . . theoretical. No one truly observes it at this time. The only hope is finding the evidence of an event and supposing what happened by what has happened in the past. In other words, you find a fallen tree and suppose it made a sound since all observable falling trees made sounds.

This brings me to the point of how people are acting. When surveyed a significant number of Christians said that they would steal a million dollars if there was no way to get caught. They evidently believe that the crime (or sin) is getting caught rather than stealing.

Several years ago I had a lady suggest that I do something very unethical. This action would cause the church to grow quickly. She said, "No one will know." Now, wasn't she saying that the sin was not in the unethical action but in getting caught? Wasn't she saying that the sin didn't exist as long as there was no one there to observe it?

I told her that there would be two people who would testify against me. I would know and have to give an account to God who would also know.  In other words, the tree always makes a sound because there is no place where God fails to exist. There is no action that God fails to observe.

Thus, Christians think that an unmarried girl's pregnancy is a sin. That is the same as saying that the problem isn't with illegal drugs but with the overdose. This morality says that sin becomes sin only when it becomes observable to others. We fail to remember that God is always aware. There are no unobservable actions.

Yet, God searches the universe for those whom He can support. He doesn't seek out the sin but He cannot fail to know since He is always watching to see whom He will strongly support. He looks directly at the heart.

2 Chronicles 16:9a (ESV)
9 For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. "