Tag Archives: heart

What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 9

9. Hands & Heart  

Woman whispering in man's ear

Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? (Isaiah 53:1)

It is entirely possible these two questions are asking for two different answers. One speaks to God’s actions and attributes; the other speaks to our need. And depending on how you understand both questions will have eternal consequences.

The delivery of the message and the revelation is quite different. Regarding the first, message is more of an intimate presentation, and we find the word nursing, as in nursing an infant, as one of its translations. And what is our message? The message is Jesus, and this message is representative of God the Father’s heart.

The revelation—that which has been revealed—is done in the open: it’s meanings are uncover, discover, disclose, carried and captive. The arm of the Lord is representative of His hands, His works.

As believers, we must “get” both. We need to see His good works, and we need to know His heart. But for those who are not followers of Christ, the author of Hebrews speaks to this: And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)

So what is it that has been revealed? What is it they will get? We find the answer again in Hebrews, in the very first verse of the first chapter: God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son. (Hebrews 1:1-2) Scripture reveals God’s message and arm. Creation is another: The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. (Pslam 19:1) For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. (Rom 1:20) God’s arm has been revealed, and His message is clear.

Feed the Hungry

But the delivery of the message and the revelation is no longer exclusively God’s. For those of us who have gotten the message, it now becomes our ministry, our responsibility to share what we know; and thereby they (the unbelievers) will see our hearts, and our hands proclaiming His message, and His revelation.

They will see your good works: Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)

And they see your testimony: I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. (Galatians 2:20)

Indeed, not only should the unbeliever see our hearts and hands, they should see Jesus!

 

What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 6

6. Eaten Alive

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Because for Your sake I have borne reproach; Dishonor has covered my face. I have become estranged from my brothers And an alien to my mother’s sons. For zeal for Your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me. When I wept in my soul with fasting, it became my reproach. When I made sackcloth my clothing, I became a byword to them. Those who sit in the gate talk about me, and I am the song of the drunkards. Reproach has broken my heart and I am so sick. ( Psalm 69:7-12)

The Hebrew word for consumed is often translated as being eaten, or even devoured. Is your zeal for the Lord enough to make you feel like you are being eaten alive? Or you’re estranged from your family? Of course it may not be your zeal that’s eating you alive. You may be on the menu of those who are watching you, such as mockers, scoffers, God-haters, and “religious” types.

Doing Godly works is enough of a reason to receive reproach. King David’s fasting became a reproach; sackcloth made him a byword; and he was even a song for drunkards! In the Hebrew, David became a proverb, an illustration of what not to do.

Now obviously, Christ is the quintessential example of suffering for good. His entire life and ministry was doing good, to the glory of God the Father. Yet what did He receive? Scorn. Reproach. Persecution. Death. And there were only a few who understood this: One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” ( Luke 23:39-43)

At the end of the Psalm, we see this treatment exacted its price: Reproach has broken my heart and I am so sick. Christ took this personally. That is the cost of love; the ones we love and are willing to die for are at times the very same people who have scorned us, and broken our hearts. Are you willing to follow in Christ’s  steps and show His love?

Jesus Feet

Note what happens to you if you’re doing what Jesus did:

Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:9)

If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. (Matthew 15:18-19)

Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (1 Timothy 3:12)

For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. (1 Peter 2:20)

If your current behavior does not stir up any of the above listed New Testament consequences, or if it doesn’t seem as if you’re being eaten alive, consider your actions. They may be wrong or insufficient. Are you willing to follow in His steps and show His love, regardless of the consequences?

What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 2

2. Forsaken

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My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning. (Psalm 22:1)

This Psalm begins with perhaps the most famous words Christ uttered from the cross: About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matt 27:46) Don’t think for a moment that Christ did not know that He would be forsaken. This is a potent word. Other translations are: abandon, fail, leave alone, leave behind, and deserted. Christ was willing to be abandoned for you, to be left behind for you; to be deserted for you.

But actually, this question really is rhetorical. Christ knew why there was no answer, why He had been forsaken. He [God the Father] made Him [Jesus the Son] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (1 Cor 5:21) This was not to be a time where the Son was to be delivered. Rather, it was a time where He was cursed, and suffered and died…forsaken—for your deliverance (cf. Deut 21:22)

As Christ cried out, how it must have broken the Father’s heart to not answer, to not even hear. What did it do to the Son’s heart?

Far from my deliverance. Isolated and removed, and indeed, unknown. Christ never needed deliverance before; and yet, when He needed it most, it was not for Him to have.

Are the words of my groaning. The Hebrew word for groaning is more often translated as roaring. Whereas we would think that groaning is a more muted and personal expression, it is actually loud, and should cause a reaction in anyone who would hear it. But God the Father did not listen. And the people at the foot of the cross? They mocked and ridiculed Him for it.

We know that Christ endured all this because of the joy that was before Him (Heb 12:2), but being in the midst of all this was overwhelming. Take a few minutes to read more of Psalm 22, especially verses 1-21, and experience what God gave up for Lent, and what Christ went through for you.

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Singing with the King (99) – One Stop Shop

You alone are God. (Psalm 86:10)

Last time we looked at this Psalm with a more or less theological approach. We considered this verse the way David was seeing it, the way he was seeing and knowing the LORD. But then we continued on with more verses from this Psalm to understand why David knew this to be.

Protect me, for I am devoted to you. Save me, for I serve you and trust you. You are my God. Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am calling on you constantly. Give me happiness, O Lord, for I give myself to you. O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help.  But you, O Lord, are a God of compassion and mercy, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. (vs. 2-5, 15)

Notice the couplets:

Protect me— I am devoted to you.

Save me— I serve and trust you.

Be merciful to me— for I am calling on you.

Give me happiness— I give myself to you.

Then David lists off a string of characteristics about his God, who alone is God: good, ready to forgive, full of unfailing love, compassionate, merciful, slow to get angry, filled with unfailing love, and faithfulness. Who wouldn’t want to come to a God like that?

I mention all this again because God being the “one and only” is more than just a theological truth, it’s a relational truth. What I mean by that? Not only is He God alone, He’s all you need. Consider these following verses:

In heaven I have only you, and on this earth you are all I want. (Ps 73:25)

The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. (Ps 23:1)

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Ps 37:4)

The apostle Paul picks up on this theme in in his letter to the Philippians: And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (4:19)

So now we have in effect, a double-edged sword. The LORD, he is God alone. And he’s all that you need. God does not call you into an exclusive relationship, just to exclude you from all else. Your salvation need and you relational need are one.

Your salvation is both eternal (John 6:40), and to the uttermost (Hebrews 7:25).

Your heart has more than you can ever ask or imagine:

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)

The greatest need for your heart? The greatest need for your soul? Jesus Christ… Only.

Singing with the King (95) – Pride & Humility

Lord, I have given up my pride and turned away from my arrogance. I am not concerned with great matters or with subjects too difficult for me.  Instead, I am content and at peace. As a child lies quietly in its mother’s arms, so my heart is quiet within me. Israel, trust in the Lord now and forever! (Psalm 131)

Last time I looked at this Psalm, I focused mainly on the author. It was King David, who was, shall we say, a reasonably successful King. Yet this is where his heart was. But this time I want to look at our hearts in relation to this Psalm.

This is one of the Songs of Ascents, there are 15, which are presumed to be the songs the Jews sang as they walked up to the Temple. If that is indeed the case, then the four David wrote were for future generations.

So here we are walking to worship, and it’s probably a good time and place to give up your pride and turn away from your arrogance. God’s not particularly fond of either of those attributes:

Though the LORD is great, he cares for the humble, but he keeps his distance from the proud. (Psalm 136:6) It’s going to be tough to worship—to draw near—if the LORD is keeping His distance from you.

All who fear the LORD will hate evil. Therefore, I hate pride and arrogance, corruption and perverse speech. (Proverbs 8:13) Fear of the LORD means you understand Who He is and who you are. Pride and arrogance will not only NOT lead to understanding, it will put you in a dangerous place where God hates you.

Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. (Proverbs 11:2) Disgrace or wisdom…it’s your choice.

Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.  Better to live humbly with the poor than to share plunder with the proud. (Proverbs 16:18-19)

Disgrace, distance, and finally destruction and a fall.Can you see how impossible it is to have a loving and worshipful relationship with Him, with all that against you? Pride exalts us beyond our place. Pride replaces God, or at best ignores Him. Pride completely re-writes our priorities. Pride makes us stupid. And the damage? Well that’s what the Psalms and Proverbs are talking about.

So what is it that grabs your attention? Great things? Difficult things? In and of themselves there is nothing wrong with either. But what if they become a distraction? What if they complicate too much? Find the simplicity of a child’s love and rest in the Lord.

Finally, lets not forget the context. You’re on your way to worship. God knows your heart. He knows when you’re being prideful and stupid, and he knows when you’re being humble like Jesus. He knows when you are near, and when you are distant. But what about your friends around you, as you’re going to worship? Are you being transparent so they can see that you’re struggling, and therefor could encourage you and strengthen you? Or are you keeping to yourself, hurting alone, being alone? It could be that your willingness to be open could bring about the healing you need, the truth you need, and so as your walking to worship, you’re actually being made ready for worship.

Some people have gotten out of the habit of meeting for worship, but we must not do that. We should keep on encouraging each other, especially since you know that the day of the Lord’s coming is getting closer. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. (James 4:8) You might even find yourself held in His loving arms.


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Singing with the King (85) – I Love You (1/2)

The LORD is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him… the love of the LORD remains forever with those who fear him. (Psalm 103:13,17)

Father and SonThe earliest childhood memory I have with my Dad was laying on his chest, as he sat in his recliner, with both of us eating out of a can of peanuts, watching Rassling (long before it became so dramatic and overproduced). I still remember his arms wrapped around me.

But, it took me 27 years to hear my Dad say “I love you”. Don’t get me wrong, I knew he loved me. (As testified by the above story.) He worked on big yellow things with wheels, tracks, etc., for as long as I could remember (a master mechanic), but he still had time to go to his son’s games and meets; band and choir concerts. And even if it meant skipping a day of weekend overtime to see his son run or sing, he was there.

When I was in college I read a book on prayer by a Jesuit theologian. It changed my life. Up to that point I had thanked God, praised God, worshiped God, rejoiced in God, and made my prayers and petitions known to Him (in Jesus’ name). But I had never told my Heavenly Father that I loved Him. After reading the book, I made sure that in all my prayers, to tell my Heavenly Father I love Him, to this day. And for the people who I loved, I made sure to tell them I loved them.

So it was probably around my early twenties that I noticed my Dad’s typical response to my “I love you.” It was either “Ditto” or “You too.” It became my mission in life was to hear those three words from him, whether over the phone on in person. It happened the summer of my 27th year. I was back on the West Coast, visiting my parents, with the usual hugs were going around. While squeezing my mom I told her that I loved her, and she responded as she always did: “I love you.” Dad and I grappled in our usual bear hug, and I told him I loved him and he grunted or something. But later in that week, I told him I loved him, and he said…”I love you too, son.” And I cried (maybe Dad even got a little teary). From that day on until he died 9 years later, the “I love yous” abounded.

Now why do I share this ancient history with you? Well, if you’re a parent, have you told your _20161125_125039kids you love them today? They need to hear it; and they need to see it and feel it. And for you Dads, loving your kids is going to give them a great glimpse into the love of their Heavenly Father.

What about the rest of the family? Maybe  you’re distant (emotionally or geographically). Or estranged. Maybe there are wounds, scars, whatever. Love them. Tell them. Because, Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8)

Now there are certain traumas and griefs we go through which may loosen your tongue, but don’t wait for that. A funeral and the loss of a loved one can pry those three words out of you, especially for those us who have been left behind. Cancer or heart disease can get your attention. It did for me and my family. But I don’t want to go through that again—so don’t wait.

What about those in the Family of God. Have you told them you loved them? Maybe they’re alone, or their family’s a complete disaster. Did God bring you into their lives to love them? Tell them. Don’t wait for disaster to strike, because maybe you—or they—end up in the presence of Jesus. Tell them… now.

Please understand that this tirade is for those who may be challenged verbally and emotionally—especially us guys. Who knows, if you speak these three words, with God’s help, you may be able to begin living them. But if you’re more at ease speaking, don’t allow those three words to become some glib motto. Rather, Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.  (1 Peter 1:22)

SInging with the King (77) – It’s Only a Song

It’s Only a Song…

Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again—my Savior and my God! (Psalm 42:5)

Singing AloneThis verse appears three times, twice in this one and once is Psalm 43. When you read these Psalms together, you realize that this phrase (v. 5, 11, and v. 5 in the second psalm) fills the function of a refrain or chorus. Now the purpose of a chorus (except for those who aren’t very good with lyrics and need to say things over and over) is to repeat lines both thematically and musically to ensure it sticks, and that we don’t miss whatever it is being said (sung). So what precedes this chorus?

Verse 1 . (musically speaking) Apparently the Psalmist is no longer near the Temple, is missing the  worship and the fellowship, and is taunted by his enemies about the very existence of his God.

We should remember the passage from Hebrews:  And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. (Hebrews 10:25)

If for some reason the writer found himself alone, then worship and encouragement would have been is short supply.

Verse 2. More isolation; more taunting and oppression.

But in the midst of this second verse, the Psalmist sings: But each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me, and through each night I sing his songs, praying to God who gives me life. (42:8) Now I’ve got to ask: if God is pouring out His unfailing love each day, and he’s singing and praying every night—what’s wrong with his heart?

Verse 3. The oppression continues, as well as false claims against him.

Here he prays for God’s deliverance and guidance.  Then the chorus appears for the last time.

So the question still stands: what’s wrong with his heart? It is not for me to question, for clearly there is something troubling this saint. Within these two psalms, we’ve seen plenty of reasons for sorrow. But we’ve also seen God’s provision. So is sorrow winning over God’s grace?

I suppose it can, if we leave ourselves to it, and surrender to the sadness. Then depression an discouragement can set in. But all throughout this psalm, this songwriter examines his surroundings, his emotions, and his relations. And his decision? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again—my Savior and my God! I will, he says. And he chooses action over inaction. He chooses worship over weeping.

One more thing.  The last phrase is: my Savior and my God. And the Hebrew word for Savior is Yeshua, which is Jesus. So if you’re experiencing this sorrow, remember: Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30)

Choose the Savior over sorrow.

Singing with the King (67) – Joy!

What joy for the nation whose God is the Lord, whose people he has chosen as his inheritance. (Psalm 33:12)

Dancing in the Sun3I don’t want to draw an parallels between Israel as a nation and any other nation today or even in the ancient world. Israel has been and is unique. But the parallel we can draw is about the people He has chosen as an inheritance. Paul tells us in Romans:

The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ… (Romans 8:16-17a) For us, it’s not about a particular nation or nationality; it’s about being His Chosen People—the Church: And I saw another angel flying through the sky, carrying the eternal Good News to proclaim to the people who belong to this world—to every nation, tribe, language, and people. (Revelation 14:6)

If the Good News has been preached to you, then you are indeed an heir of God and fellow heir with Christ. And now here comes the question: How’s your joy?

If you were truly joyful, what would your testimony look like? Would people be asking you about that joy? Of course they would. And sharing Christ with them would be neither problematic nor inconsistent. The problem is, we are NOT a joyful lot; for we think there is little in us that would attract another to Jesus. But is that true?

The fact is we HAVE joy.

No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice. My body rests in safety. For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave. You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever. (Psalm 16:9-11)

The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart. (Psalm 19:8)

You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy. (Psalm 30:11)

I have inherited Your testimonies forever, for they are the joy of my heart. (Psalm 119:111)

“Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight. Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of sin.” (Romans 4:7-8)

You received the message with the joy that comes from the Holy Spirit. (1 Thessalonians 1:6)

It is one of the fruit of the Spirit: But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control.

As you can see, there are is a multitude of reasons to be joyful. Joy is both a consequence and a gift. It’s time to exhume that gift, embrace that gift, explain that gift, exemplify that gift and export that gift.

I don’t see joy overtaking us as a nation. If it does. it will have be done one heart at a time—hearts that have received the inheritance of God.

 

Singing with the King (40) – The Right Perspective

O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty; nor do I involve myself in great matters, or in things too difficult for me. Psalm 131:1

Daddy and daughter40 years ago I was in a Bible study with the pianist from the Christian band Glad, Bob Kauflin, and occasionally he’d teach us some new songs. One that he taught us was the above Psalm. I can still sing and play it, but I don’t know who wrote the music.

This is another of the “Song of Ascents”, and it is only three verses long:

O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty; nor do I involve myself in great matters,
or in things too difficult for me. Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child
rests against his mother, my soul is like a weaned child within me. O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forever.

Understand, this is King David, a reasonably (if not wildly) successful king, and of whom it was said that he was a man after God’s own heart. And he’s saying, his heart is not proud, his eyes are not haughty. And he doesn’t get involved in great matters or difficult things.

Now we could consider his battles and victories; his plans for building God a house; and how he set up all the care and maintenance for the temple and its ministries. Great matters? Difficult things? Hmm.

But it really is a matter of having the right perspective–God’s Perspective. Where did David’s skill, strength, and victories come from? The LORD. What about his art and creativity? From the LORD. What about his legacy of worship? From the LORD. And his greatness? Compared to God’s he had none.

Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O LORD, and You exalt Yourself as head over all.  Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone.  Now therefore, our God, we thank You, and praise Your glorious name. But who am I and who are my people that we should be able to offer as generously as this? For all things come from You, and from Your hand we have given You. (1 Chronicles 29:11-14)

David knew all that he had and all that he was had come from God, and without Him, he was nothing. In this Psalm, David saw himself as a child leaning up against his Heavenly Father. And for all the things he did, and all the victories he had gained, this was where he wanted to be.

May you find that same comfort, leaning up against your Heavenly Father.