Tag Archives: Heart

But as for Me

Psalm 109:19 Now may those curses return and cling to him like his clothing or his belt. 20 This is the Lord’s punishment upon my enemies who tell lies about me and threaten me with death.  21 But as for me, O Lord, deal with me as your child, as one who bears your name! Because you are so kind, O Lord, deliver me.  22-23 I am slipping down the hill to death; I am shaken off from life as easily as a man brushes a grasshopper from his arm. 24 My knees are weak from fasting, and I am skin and bones. 25 I am a symbol of failure to all mankind; when they see me they shake their heads. 26 Help me, O Lord my God! Save me because you are loving and kind…29 Make them fail in everything they do. Clothe them with disgrace. 30 But I will give repeated thanks to the Lord, praising him to everyone. 31 For he stands beside the poor and hungry to save them from their enemies.

I began this journey through these Imprecatory Psalms because of my frustration about being unable to pray about ugly circumstances beyond my control because the only words I could come up with were ugly too. It was a faithful pastor and friend that pointed me to these Psalms with the caveat they were not easy but they might help me understand my own situation. I’m certain that’s exactly how the Bible works and why it’s still such an important book.  So today I’m going to quote words of my own lessons from this series of posts.

“I want my heart to be so certain of God’s Sovereign reliability that I am not afraid of the effect my hostile and harsh thoughts and words against his enemies and injustice will have on God’s opinion of me.”

“God ultimately chose to intervene in his global creation through the life of Jesus and with the Holy Spirit for one specific reason: to make that same kind of freedom, personal relationship and aggressive faith with the all powerful, all knowing, ever present God available to each of us.” 

“Here’s the thing the giant slayer came to understand: Life is just another giant you can’t fight alone.  That’s the reality of Sovereign reliability.” 

“The  power of God was revealed  “for Heaven’s sake” in the imperfections of this king BECAUSE he knew exactly what to do with the ugly stuff!”  

“God’s justice IS going to defend the righteous but just as surely it’s “still” HIS righteousness that’s our right reward to enjoy, not the judgment of others.”  

“Life is our power struggle in which we constantly have to choose whether we’ll give the power to circumstances or to our intimacy with God to effect our response.”   

“Circumstances won’t always change but perspective can make all the difference in our response.  “The humble shall see their God at work for them. No wonder they will be so glad!” 

This week life has dished out some physical pain for me.  I read these harsh words from this man with a direct line to God’s heart with my own pain reminding me of the powerful challenge circumstance and perspective have on life, even in our intimacy with God.  Then I realized David’s prayer can be mine too.  “But as for me, O Lord, deal with me as your child, as one who bears your name! Because you are so kind, O Lord, deliver me.”

Commentary

-Mark 12:30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

-Matthew 22:37 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.

-Luke 10:27…Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.

These three New Testament Scripture passages all quote Jesus speaking words that would have been familiar to his Jewish hearers, the Shema. They’re words still used repeatedly in Jewish prayers. They all include loving God with your heart and soul which seems obvious. The inclusion of mind and/or strength is the variant that got my attention.  I understand the access to mind and strength more than I do heart and soul.

This is the age-old debate: Is it strength of commitment or the exercise of the mind that fills the heart and soul? How do we figure out what’s required of us to prove our sincerity?  It would seem even these Bible authors had their own opinion on that.  Mind and strength? Mind? Strength? Do I have to choose one or the other?

Hillel was a famous religious leader in Jewish history. He was asked to recite the whole law for a dedicated student who would prove his sincerity and his physical strength by listening to it all while standing on one leg. That’s a funny mind picture isn’t it?  Hillel’s short answer was probably pretty welcome to him; “What thou hatest for thyself, do not to thy neighbour. This is the whole law, the rest is commentary. Go and learn.”

This is the whole law…“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul…”   Now go find a comfortable spot, read, study and think.  God will begin to write his whole commentary in your mind and on your heart to strengthen your soul

The Big Event – Blessing


Isaiah 40:9
“You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!”
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Today is the beginning of Advent, 2017. Advent may not be a familiar name to you.   It’s really just a time set aside leading up to Christmas to acknowledge the fullness of what has become the “Big Event” of our life, the birth of Jesus. I’ve come to love the daily moments that catch my heart and focus my mind on the Who, What, Why, When and How the Bible records of that Big Event but the season is filled with many other things that catch my eyes and ears. It’s starting to sound like a whole body experience isn’t it…heart, mind, eyes and ears? That’s exactly what the purpose of the month-long celebration of the Big Event is about.

The words Isaiah spoke way back then have added one more facet to the fullness of this year’s celebration of the Big Event for me. This might be the best part. The weeks leading up to Christmas are one of those rare seasons when the hearts of complete strangers are softened by music, lights, food, parties, friends, family…and gifts. Softened enough that what Isaiah says to us may touch them as well. “You who bring good news…lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid… Here is your God!”

We are what is popularly referred to as snowbirds. Around Thanksgiving each year we pack our 35’ RV and head for warmer climate for a few months. That’s where my celebration of the Big Event happens each morning. Instead of a Christmas tree I have a hanging tree branch, a Jesse Tree [see above] that I decorate. It’s very simple. Today I hung an origami star with some off Isaiah’s words folded into it. I need those words to challenge myself, and maybe you too, to experience the fullness of a whole body celebration in one more way…voice!

There will never be a better time to “lift up your voice”…and bless someone. I’m not talking about a soapbox in a park or snagging someone on a street corner or even quoting scripture to them [although that might be appropriate in the right situation]. I’m only asking you to notice and respond to the people that cross your path between now and Christmas with a gift from God; a blessing given with your own voice and from the fullness of your own heart to make this year’s Big Event a whole body experience for yourself and maybe them too.

This doesn’t come naturally to me so I’ve been sitting here jotting down ideas of ways to fearlessly speak a blessing to a complete stranger. Ten minutes have gone by and after a lot of typing and a visit to look up the definition of blessing, Isaiah’s timeless truth [this is the “do not be afraid” part] has finally dawned on me. There is only one way to begin this blessing…God bless you…
…for your kindness
…for your help
…for your cheerful greeting
…for ringing that bell
…for opening that door
…for caring to ask
…for doing your job well

You get the idea, right? Make it part of your preparation during the days leading up to the Big Event to watch for opportunities to let your voice be a blessing for others.  It’s really true you are blessed to be a blessing.  May God bless you with his own heart, mind, eyes and ears…may he bless you with the courage to speak…may he bless you for pondering my thoughts and then coming up with your own.

The Red Thread – Impact on the Heart

Mark 10
Jesus is questioned by the Pharisees about divorce. It’s a law but even then it’s controversial. Jesus responds with v5 “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” and then lays out God’s original plan for marriage from Genesis. Then the scene changes drastically to talk of the hearts of children and the kingdom of God.

Once again this book of Mark seems to follow a unique diary-like style of writing. The first entry is the very adult issue of divorce…and it’s relationship to hearts. This was not one of the “Big 10” laws the Pharisees were asking about. It sure doesn’t fit with the words Jesus quotes from Genesis about the condition God set for the marriage relationship in v7…be united and the promise in v8…’the two will become one flesh.’ That’s the point, it wasn’t about legality of divorce at all it was about the impact on the heart.

It was the flawed reality of those hearts Jesus was addressing that makes the next entry such a dramatic contrast to the impact on the heart of a child.
• Some hearts have had years to develop their own sense of importance in the world around them. A child’s heart has not yet learned the importance of himself in the world.
• Some hearts have learned to value independence from others. A child’s heart still knows he’s dependent on others.
• Some hearts only respond to what they trust of authority. A child’s heart can more readily know the authority of those he trusts.
• Some hearts look for convenient loopholes in kingdom requirements. A child’s heart accepts God’s requirements to enter the kingdom.

The Red Thread – Ragtag Unity

Mark 3 The Red Thread – Rag Tag Unity

•“Stand up in front of everyone.”
•“Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?”
•“Stretch out your hand.”
•“How can Satan drive out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. 27 In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house. 28 Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”
•33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?”
•“Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

ragtag: adjective
1. untidy, disorganized, or incongruously varied in character.
“a ragtag group of idealists”

What an varied assortment of characters there are in this chapter. First and foremost is Jesus, a carpenter turned itinerant minister from an obscure background causing a stir everywhere he went. The ragtag list continues: a man with shriveled hand, the “them” watching to find a way to accuse Jesus, crowds from all over, impure spirits, 12 ragtag men we call disciples, some of Jesus’s own family who are worried about his behavior and teachers of the law who find him both irritating and threatening. It doesn’t sound like the makings of a book that is still the world’s best-selling and most widely distributed according to Guinness World Records.

That’s the story though. God assembling his own ragtag community of people then…and now…for the essential purpose of keeping them close to himself. Essential ragtag people who manage to live together in ragtag unity because of one essential person, Jesus, the son of God, our Savior.

There’s an argument still made today those essentials are fine, “if you need them.” Recently I asked my pastor about how to respond to that. He gave me an answer I’ve never even considered before – embrace the need. I can’t give you proof that God exists or that Jesus can really change you. I can tell you about the need of one woman with a ragtag history who’s heart is being rebuilt with these red letter words of Jesus. It’s a ragtag unity I share with other “untidy, disorganized, or incongruously varied” people who find red letter words filling in the blanks of their lives too.

“In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity” Rupertus Meldenius, author of the 17th century tract in which the quote first appeared.

Muscle Memory

Matthew 15:15 Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.” 16 “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. 17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”

Par·a·ble: a simple story used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson, as told by Jesus in the Gospels.

“The things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them” is a red-letter Biblical truth from Jesus. We need to believe it and let it change us. Without a doubt we’ve all spoken words and done things that defiled us. Is that flaw part of the muscle memory stored in all hearts since Adam and Eve decided they should figure out the difference between good and evil for themselves? Was that where we began to depend on “rules” to erase what defiled us?

Long before medical science had proof of how central the heart is to the healthy functioning of the body Jesus knew the heart he’d helped create. The muscle memory of God was still there and could be remembered, renewed and redeemed by his truth.

Obedience of the Heart

Romans 2:13 Hearing the law does not make people right with God. It is those who obey the law who will be right with him. 14 (Those who are not Jews do not have the law, but when they freely do what the law commands, they are the law for themselves. This is true even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that in their hearts they know what is right and wrong, just as the law commands. And they show this by their consciences. Sometimes their thoughts tell them they did wrong, and sometimes their thoughts tell them they did right.)

It was only when I pasted these three verses into my digital journal that I noticed the close parenthesis at the end and realized the enclosed explanation was twice as long as the sentence it was clarifying. That simple fact seemed like a Biblical object lesson for me to think about.

Being right with God is more complicated than just knowing what the law is. Obeying the law isn’t a matter of separating the have’s from the have not’s at all.  Instead, God makes a connection to what he’s written in the heart. “They [those who do not have the law] show that in their hearts they know what is right and wrong, just as the law commands.”

The object lesson: “Right with God” is the complicated relationship between being obedient to what the brain knows about the law and the obedience of the heart desiring to freely respond to it.