Worthy Versus Worthless Things

Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word. Psalm 119:36-37

Saint Augustine of Hippo, one of the greatest Christian thinkers of all times, said, “Order your soul; reduce your wants; live in charity; associate in Christian community; obey the laws; trust in Providence.” These profound words strike hard at the materialistic life many mainstream Americans strive to live. The desire to have more than we need, to hoard all we can, and to climb the ladder of success without regard for others can easily build a wall between us and God. Once this happens, our eternal lives are forever placed in jeopardy.

Today’s passage from Psalm 119 cautions us about selfish gain and worthless things. In fact, the Psalmist asks God to keep his heart focused on the statutes (God’s Holy Word) rather than on selfish gain and worthless things. How easy it is to slide away from the Scriptures and snuggle up to selfish gain. It can happen so very innocently as we climb each rung of the “success ladder.” However, staying rooted in God’s Holy Word can fill our hearts with worthy things thereby turning our eyes away from worthless things.

I write about this because I’ve been caught up in “worthless things and selfish gain” in my life. But nothing changes your perspective like a diagnosis of Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. All of a sudden, everything you’ve amassed in life becomes worthless! It has little meaning and actually becomes a burden. After my diagnosis, I started shedding many of the things I no longer needed. I sold property, gave “worthless things” away to charity, and reduced my wants. Then I began a more focused look at the Scriptures so I could spend my time on worthy things rather than worthless things.

If you have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, perhaps it is time to begin your focused look at the Scriptures. Ask God to turn your heart away from selfish gain and worthless things and instead turn your eyes toward His Statutes. You will find wonderful things that bring you strength, hope, peace, and comfort for the rough road ahead. Then you too will be focused on worthy things rather than worthless things.

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Strengthened by His Word

My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to you word. Psalm 119:28

Whenever someone receives a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, it can hit like a proverbial ton of bricks! Like today’s passage implies, your soul is weary with sorrow and it can last for days, weeks, months, or even years. It is without a doubt one of the most difficult diagnoses to process especially when it occurs in the prime of life.

When this happens, you need strength, love, comfort, peace, reassurance, hope, understanding, and faith because the difficult road which lies ahead will be a struggle to say the least. After my diagnosis at the age of 55, the wind was definitely taken out of my sail as I felt discouraged, disillusioned, and distraught. Throughout the lengthy 15 month diagnosis process, I remember praying let it be anything but my brain. I thought I could handle anything accept a diagnosis of dementia. Why? Because I remembered how difficult it was for my grandmother and father who both suffered and died from dementia. Well, over eight years later, I’ve learned I can certainly handle and live joyfully with a diagnosis of Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

How can I do this? Primarily because of my deep-rooted faith which has been strengthened according to God’s Holy Word. His precious Word has continued to provide me strength, comfort, hope, peace, purpose, inspiration, and assurance that all things work to the good for those who love the Lord and are called according to his purposes. Without God’s Word, I would be lost in a sickening sea of discouragement, desperation, and disillusionment because of my disease. However, His Word continues to calm my anxious spirit while strengthening me for the road ahead!

If you are struggling with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, let God’s Holy Word strengthen you as well. Spend time reading the Scriptures and discover for yourself the perfect promises of God. As you begin to spend time daily in the Word, you will be strengthen for your journey as well.

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Delight in God’s Decrees

I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. Psalm 119:15-16

Perhaps one of the greatest gifts of retirement is having an abundance of quality time to read the Scriptures more thoroughly, study the Scriptures more ferociously, meditate on the Scriptures more strenuously, and write about the Scriptures more frequently. There is nothing that brings more joy and purpose to my life than doing these things. Like today’s passage from the Psalms declares, I delight in the God’s decrees and I do not neglect His Holy Word.

Of course, having Early-onset Alzheimer’s makes all of this a significant challenge especially on my foggy days. But I must report that it is easier to read the Bible and remember some of its passages than it is to read a book and remember some of its substance. Part of this may be attributed to the fact that I had read the Bible long before I was diagnosed and its words are much more familiar to me than new material.

However, I believe there is a lot more going on than just a familiarity of the words. There is spiritual power within the Scriptures just like the writer of Hebrews claimed when he wrote, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).” Its words have divine power and inspiration to change lives for the better no matter what situation the reader may be facing. That is why I believe I can understand the words, remember the message, write about the content, and maintain joy in the midst of the turmoil brought on by Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. The Scriptures make all this possible because of God’s divine power embedded within His Holy Word.

Today’s Psalm passage pleads with our hearts to meditate upon God’s Word and consider it often as we go about our daily lives. Nothing could be more helpful for an individual struggling with difficult circumstances. Spending time in the Scriptures, thinking about how they apply to one’s life, and delighting in God’s instructions promises to bring joy in the midst of strife. So spend time today studying the Scriptures and delighting in the Lord’s decrees. Then allow the Holy Spirit to guide your thoughts, your life, and your future no matter how difficult your struggles may be.

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Walk In Obedience

Blessed are they who keep his statues and seek him with all their heart. Psalm 119:2

Today’s passage is not only a biblical fact but it is also a prophetic promise for those who keep God’s statutes and seek Him with all their heart, mind, and spirit. God will bless them and they will prosper in ways that fulfill God’s will for their lives. What a perfect promise no matter what you may be facing in life!

I love the way 1 Kings 2:3 depicts King David’s advice to His son Solomon as David’s time on earth was coming to an end, “… and observe what the LORD your God requires: Walk in obedience to him, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and regulations, as written in the Law of Moses. Do this so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go …” King David was advising Solomon on how to live a godly life by doing these spiritual things:

  • Pay attention to what the Lord requires (act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God)
  • Live life and rule the kingdom in obedience to God
  • Keep God’s decrees, commands, laws, and regulations.

By doing these three things, Solomon would not only prosper in all He did but He would set a righteous example for those over whom he ruled. By setting this example, the people of God would see how to live a godly life. Then, if they kept God’s statutes, they too would be blessed just like today’s passage from the Psalms promises.

God provides each of us with the spiritual strength, biblical wisdom, and inspirational insight to keep His statutes and seek His guidance. All we need do is choose to follow Him with all our heart. Even on my foggiest days (for now anyway), I still seek the Lord and try my best to do what the Lord requires; walk in obedience to Him. As such I am a joyful and blessed man!

No matter what your struggles may be, take King David’s and the Psalmist’s advice to heart. Do your best each day to seek the Lord and walk in obedience to Him. He will bless you in accordance with His will for your life and you will be a more joyful person!

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Give Thanks to God

You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt you. Psalm 118:28

I generally don’t write much about my specific struggles with Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. I always try to be upbeat about the way my life is unfolding as I deal with the daily demands of dementia. However, my life is changing quite dramatically. I have more foggy days than clear days, have much more trouble following normal conversation, I no longer drive anywhere, most days I feel almost numb, I have trouble making even the simplest decisions, it takes an enormous amount of concentration to do most outdoor chores, I often forget what I’ve done, and I generally don’t want to leave the Hornback Homestead for any reason.

These are but a few of the daily struggles I feel comfortable sharing online. However, what is important is I don’t dwell on any of them. These struggles don’t define me and I persevere through them with the help of the Holy Spirit. Why? So I can continue to be of service in some small way to my Lord.

In spite of the struggles brought on by Alzheimer’s disease, I remain a very thankful man. Like today’s Psalm passage declares, I give thanks to God because He is my God. Therefore, I will exalt Him and praise Him in prayer. I often pray prayers filled with nothing but thankfulness. I don’t ask for a single thing, I just thank God for all the great and wonderful things He has done in my life. His blessings continue to surround me every day and for that I am a truly thankful, joyful, and humble man!

I love the way the Apostle Paul put it to the Thessalonians, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” As I reread these words from yesterday’s devotion, they have special meaning to me and to anyone dealing with serious struggles in their life. God wants us to be joyful, to pray, and to give thanks no matter what our circumstances may be.

As you begin your day, keep in mind today’s Psalm passage and Paul’s instructions to the Thessalonians. Then joyfully offer up prayers of thanksgiving and praise to our Lord. Not only will it make you feel better, but it will be a sweet and fragrant offering to the One who loves you unconditionally. He is your God and He shall be exalted!

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Always Give Thanks

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Psalm 118:1

Psalm 118 is often called a thanksgiving Psalm perhaps because its author, probably a Davidic king of Israel, provides a written record of thanks to God for His mighty deeds. In fact, today’s passage begins with two great reasons to offer thanksgiving to the Lord: the Lord is good and all he bestows upon His people is perfectly suited for them and there is no end to the mercy the Lord lavishes upon His people.

Another thankful person, the Apostle Paul, wrote to the Thessalonians, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).” In this precious passage, Paul reminds the Thessalonians, as well as all of us, to be joyful always, to be continually in prayer, and most importantly to give thanks in all circumstances. Wow! What a powerful message for someone struggling with Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

But is it possible to act as Paul and the author of Psalm 118 instructs when struggling with Alzheimer’s disease? I would have to respond with a resounding YES! It is how I live my life as I deal with the daily demands of this dreadful disease. I do my upmost to remain joyful in the Lord, offer up all kinds of prayers (intercessory, encouragement, praise, and thanksgiving) throughout the day, and continually give thanks for how God has orchestrated my life with this disease and the people with whom He has brought me in contact.

During the summer, I was fortunate enough to attend the Alzheimer’s Association’s International Conference (AAIC) 2017 which is the premier annual conference for the presentation and discussion of the latest Alzheimer’s and dementia research by more than 5,600 leading experts and researchers from more than 60 countries around the world. This conference gave me hope that we will find a cure, life-changing drug, or prevention strategy for Alzheimer’s disease within my lifetime!

I continually give thanks and praise God for all the Alzheimer’s Association does, for its caring and compassionate staff, and for the programs and support this amazing group offers. I am ever so grateful for the way in which God brought the association and its incredible people into my life. As such, even in the midst of dealing with Alzheimer’s disease, it is incredibly easy for me to always give thanks just as the Apostle Paul instructed the Thessalonians!

If you are struggling with Alzheimer’s disease I urge you to contact the Alzheimer’s Association (alz.org or 1-800-272-3900). As you go about your day today, remember to give thanks in all circumstances for the Lord is good and His love endures forever!

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This Is the Day the Lord Has Made

This is a day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24

Yesterday was a magnificent day here at the Hornback Homestead. The sun was shining in all its brilliance and everything seemed to be alive. The song birds were out in full force as they dined on the mixed seed goodies from the feeders and frolicked about in the back yard. This warm, beautiful, and sunny day was truly a remarkable change from the cold temperature of the October night.

Yesterday’s beautiful weather made me think of today’s passage. It is one of my favorite passages from the Psalms and I repeat it often during my time outdoors. This particular passage seemed especially fitting for the truly remarkable day I experienced yesterday. It was, in every sense of the word, a magnificent day the Lord had made and I absolutely rejoiced in it as I spent some extended time outdoors working around the homestead.

However, as I reflect on today’s poignant passage, which is one of my favorites, I realize each day is in fact a day the Lord has made. Therefore, I most certainly must rejoice and be glad in every one of them. Whether the day is sunny or cloudy, warm or cold, clear or foggy, or rainy or snowy, the day must be rejoiced in and enjoyed. Why? Because each day is a gracious gift from God and my spirit should be justifiably joyful, tremendously thankful, and humbly honored to be alive and engulfed by God’s glorious grace. Nothing should stand in the way of my rejoicing in each new day. Not even Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease!

As you go about your day today, remember that it is a day your Lord has made for especially for you. So rejoice and be glad in it. Even if the daily demands of dementia are weighing you down, turn your focus to your Lord and rejoice in His gift of this new day.

Even though my struggle with Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease continues, I will rejoice in this new day. Why? Because it is God’s glorious gift to me as well!

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For Great Is His Love

For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord. Psalm 117:2

I have been blessed with a loving and faithful wife who simply adores me. She has been this way since we seriously started our courtship over forty years ago. We have been through some trying times but nothing has been more difficult than my diagnosis of Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Thankfully, my wife has stood faithfully by my side while continuing to love and adore me.

Of course, not only does my wife continue to love me, but so does my Lord. Now I know that goes without saying. In fact, today’s passage reminds us God’s love is great toward us and His faithfulness endures forever. Perhaps forever is a concept many have trouble accepting in today’s society since many things don’t seem to last forever. Cars breakdown, relationships end, children leave the nest, homes are lost, jobs are terminated, and finances run out. However, God’s great love never ends, it is forever. It transcends time, space, and even our bouts of sinfulness.

One other thing to keep in mind, God’s love does not depend on our continuing to do good deeds in His name. If it did, then his love for us might end when we get sick and can no longer perform dutiful deeds as we once did. No, His love endures forever and His faithfulness continues long after our ability to do good deed subsides. You see, God’s love is gentle, gracious, and great. His unconditional love is lavished upon us and not based upon our accumulation of good deeds. Praise God!

I love the way the apostle Paul put it in his letter to the Romans, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” So great is God’s love for us that nothing can separate us from that love, not even Alzheimer’s disease!

No matter how difficult your day is, no matter how difficult your circumstances may be, and no matter how difficult your struggles are, God still loves you and His faithfulness endures forever! I don’t know about you, but every time I read these words it brings exceedingly great joy to my heart no matter what is happening in my life. Therefore, like the Psalmist, I must end today’s devotion by saying, “Praise the Lord” for great is His love!

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A Wholehearted Servant

O Lord, truly I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant; you have freed me from my chains. Psalm 116:16

Today’s passage stands as a vivid reminder that we are indeed servants of the Living Lord. Why? Because He has freed us from the chains of sin and its devastating eternal affects. Regarding being a servant, I love the way the Apostle Paul put it in his letter to the Ephesians when he wrote, “Serve wholeheartedly, as if serving the Lord, not men ….”

Paul always has a way of writing words that underscore God’s ultimate intention for each of us. To put it bluntly, Paul declares that we are to serve “wholeheartedly!” I must admit, I fail miserably on the “wholeheartedly” aspect of service. Many times I just go through the motions and sometimes I’m even a bit whiny when I serve; and for that I am ashamed. In whatever capacity God has called us to serve, we are to do it with all our heart, all our mind, all our spirit, and all our strength. This seems a pretty lofty requirement, doesn’t it? However, as servants of the Living Lord it is the standard.

Perhaps you think that because you struggles are too great you should get a bye on the whole servant requirement. Well nothing would be further from the truth. I love the way St Augustine put it in his theological text De Doctrina Christiana (On Christian Teaching) when he said, “Since you cannot do good to all, you are to pay special attention to those who, by the accidents of time, or place, or circumstances, are brought into closer connection with you.”

Wow, God places people in our direct path for whom we are to do good because we are His wholehearted servants. Now this could be a single individual or even a much larger group. It could be our caregivers, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, fellow patients, church members, neighbors, acquaintances, or folks down on their luck. Whomever it is, God will alert us to their special standing in regard to our own personal path to servanthood. Then, we are to pay special attention to their needs or, as the Apostle Paul perfectly put it, “wholeheartedly” serve their needs according to the rich blessings provided by our Heavenly Father.

Now this particular act of service might be as simple as encouragement, financial assistance, physical help, visitation, or something even greater. God will put upon our hearts what He desires us to do. All we need do is remember this simple fact, we are His servants and we should do this “wholeheartedly!”

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Let Your Soul Be at Rest

Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. Psalm 116:7

When I was going through the United States Marine Corp Officer Candidate School, we spent a great deal of time and exerted a significant amount of sweat equity learning close order drill. This type of drill included learning individual movements (stationary movements with and without weapons), platoon movements (marching in formation with and without weapons), and even company movements (platoons marching together in formation with and without weapons). The command “Rest” was one of the more relaxed individual movements which allowed a Marine to move his body freely, talk quietly with other Marines, and drink from a canteen while remaining in formation. It is the most relaxed command while executing close order drill.

In today’s Psalm passage, the Psalmist commands his soul to be at rest once more. As I meditated on these words for a while, I thought how often my soul was not at rest. In fact, during periods of “non-spiritual rest”, my soul has been quite agitated, anxious, aggravated, angry, apathetic, and even annoyed over the struggles and symptoms I experienced with Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

But today’s passage reminds me that, like the Psalmist, I must command my soul. All I need do is tell it to be at “rest” once more because the Lord has been graciously good to me. And the Lord has indeed been very good to me! His blessings surround me daily so why should my soul experience anything but rest? He is with me, He protects me, He supplies my every need, and He allows me to talk freely with Him.

St Augustine wrote in his book Confessions, “You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You.” In other words, our souls should be at rest once we have found our Lord and Savior! If you are struggling with an anxious, agitated, angry, aggravated, or annoyed soul today, remember your Savior and then command your soul to be at “rest” in His everlasting presence.

As the Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” So let your soul be at rest and let His peace guard your heart and mind.

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