Meditations of My Heart

Psalm 19: 14 says, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.” 

This verse is an oft-quoted one.  I have used it numerous times in teaching children that it is important to watch what we put into our heart and what comes out of our mouths.  In particular, I have used it to teach that God is displeased when we speak words that are angry, hurtful, vulgar, or lies.  In conjunction, I teach them that these displeasing words will be in our hearts and come out of our mouths, if we feed our minds with similar thoughts through the shows and movies we watch and the books we read.

As I read this verse recently, however, the Lord opened my eyes to see that all words and thoughts that are self-focused are unacceptable to Him.  When I dwell on my problems and the challenges I face in life, then the meditations of my heart are not acceptable to Him.  I turn my focus from Him to the world.  My thoughts can easily become dark and depressing, because we live in a troubled, fallen world.

We will all face times of enormous challenge in life, such as the loss of loved ones, the loss of a job, and struggles with our health.  In these times, we will naturally focus more on ourselves than on others.  But, we should never take our eyes off Jesus.  “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)

The psalmist David cried out to the Lord in a time of trouble, “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?” (Psalm 13:2, NIV)  Then he reminded himself, “But I trust in Your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in Your salvation.  I will sing to the Lord for He has been good to me.” (Psalm 13:5-6, NIV)

The way out of the pits of despair we dig for ourselves is to turn our eyes upon Jesus and to remember His unfailing love.  When the meditations of my heart are not pleasing to the Lord, I need to turn my eyes back to Him and rejoice in His salvation and sing to Him.  For indeed, the Lord has been good to me.

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Wanting More

Last night, as I listened to an evangelist speak about how we should want more of God, I couldn’t help but think about how children will demand “more, more” of something they enjoyed.  Have you ever tossed a little girl in the air  who squealed and laughed with delight?    You were thrilled that you made her happy and you laughed along with her.  You set her down and she ran off, satisfied for a moment or two. Pretty soon, though, she came back.  Her hands reached up to you as she insisted that you do it again.  So, of course, you complied.  You could not resist the opportunity to bring more joy to her little face.  This continued until your arms and back started to ache.  You probably thought, and perhaps even said, “Why did I ever start this?”  What was fun had become tiring. She may have convinced you to play the game a bit longer but you eventually ran out of energy and refused to continue.

Aren’t you glad that God doesn’t run out of energy?  Or time? Or patience?  No matter how many times we come back to God and ask for “More,” His cup is full and He is more than willing to give us more of Him.  If we want more of God, we simply have to seek Him. He promised in Deuteronomy 4:29, “You will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.”

Jesus told His disciples,  “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened… If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! (Matthew 7: 7, 8, 11)

Pursue God and you will find Him.  Raise your hands to Him and ask for more. More of God, more of His love, more of His strength to get you through each day. We are His children and He delights in giving us more of Himself.

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Glad to be in the House of the Lord

As I sang and worshiped the Lord during the morning service Sunday, my heart was filled with love for the Lord, and the sentiments David expressed in Psalm 122:1 sprang to my mind:   “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord.'”
I truly was glad to be in the house of the Lord, worshiping the Lord with others of our congregation.  Of course, I can worship God privately, and I do.  But, there is something special and particularly uplifting about corporate worship.
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Being in church allows us not only to worship God together, but also to gather together with other Christians of like beliefs and passions to hear the teaching of our minister, to pray for one another, and to encourage and lift up one another.
The apostle Paul encouraged the Hebrews to come together regularly in Hebrews 10: 24, 25, saying:

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

In Acts Chapter 2, we find the model of the early church.

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.... Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (verses 42 – 43, 45 – 46)

They were regularly–daily–in the house of the Lord worshiping together and being taught.  The result was that they had glad and sincere hearts, they enjoyed favor, and they saw many people accept Jesus Christ as their Savior.

These are the things that I want to see in my life, in my congregation, and in my community.  It is a privilege to be able to come to the  house of the Lord and I want to be there with a glad and sincere heart.

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

The refrain of an old hymn, Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus, has been running through my mind frequently in the past month or so.  We haven’t sung it in our church in years, and I couldn’t find it in the church’s hymnal.  But, thankfully I was able to find it on the Internet.  According to the information I found, it was written by Helen H. Lemmel in 1922.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

These words remind me that when the cares of this world weigh heavily on me, the solution is to turn to Jesus.  I should cast not only my eyes, but also my thoughts, on Jesus.  When I focus on Jesus and what He has done for me, the burdens of life are lessened.  Jesus told us, “In this world, you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33    And Peter reminded us to, “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”  1 Peter 5:7

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Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

Refrain:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
O’er us sin no more hath dominion—
For more than conqu’rors we are!

His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

When God Sends Hardships Our Way

Hardships are a fact of life that we prefer to avoid.  We ask God to send blessings our way and to keep hardships far from us.  When hardships do come, we tend to blame them on the devil.  But, have you ever stopped to think the God might have sent hardship your way?

This reality hit home recently as I read Genesis 15.  This is the chapter where God promises Abram that He will make him a great nation and that His descendants will be as numerous as the stars.  Yet, in the same breath, God tells Abram that the his children will be enslaved in Egypt.

“Then He brought him outside and said, ‘Look now toward heaven and count the stars if you are able to number them.’ And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.'”  Genesis 15:5

“Then He said to Abram: ‘Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them for four hundred years.  And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions.”  Genesis 15:13, 14

“But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” Genesis 15:16

Stop and think about this for a minute.  Is that the kind of promise you want for your unborn children:  They will be enslaved for 400 years.  I might have been tempted to tell God that I was just fine without children.  But, Abraham didn’t.  He believed God would supply him with many descendants and that God would bless them through the hardships that would come their way.

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In Exodus, we see this promise fulfilled.  When God sent Moses to Pharaoh to demand His people be set free, Pharaoh made life harder for the Israelites.  As Pharaoh continued to ignore Moses’ warnings, God encouraged Moses that He was in control and that these things were happening so that “the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.” (Exodus 7:5)

Later Moses tells Pharaoh that the plagues are being sent so “that you may know that there is no one like the Lord our God.” (Exodus 8:10).  In Exodus 10:1- 2, God encourages Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh; for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his servants, that I may show these signs of Mine before him, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and your son’s son the mighty things I have done in Egypt, and My signs which I have done among them, that you may know that I am the Lord.”

Through the hardships of enslavement that the Israelites endured, God showed His mighty power and instilled in them that He is the Lord God almighty.  The Israelites grew to be a mighty nation and left Egypt with great wealth. When they left Egypt, there was no doubt in the minds of the Egyptians that the God of Israel is the one true God.

God allowed the hardship of slavery to come to the Israelites to bring glory to Himself and to spread His fame throughout the world.  God’s fame was still being talked about forty years later when the Israelites finally entered the Promised Land and spies were sent out Jericho. Rahab told the spies, “We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt….And as soon as we heard these things our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.”  (Joshua 2: 10, 11)

As God has revealed to me that He uses hardships for His glory and His purposes, I have become more willing to pray that God bring into my life whatever circumstances will glorify Him and draw my unsaved loved ones to Him.

By Faith…

The 11th chapter of the book of Hebrews is an honor roll of the Patriarchs of Israel. In this chapter Paul lists many of the fathers and mothers of Israel and describes what they were able to accomplish through faith in God and by looking forward to the hope of the Messiah yet to come. As I was turning to another chapter of Hebrews, I noticed an old comment that I had written in the margin of my Bible. It said, “By faith, Susan…” I don’t recall what preacher suggested that the congregation make that notation in their Bibles, but I am certain that he or she was encouraging Christians to read this passage with our hearts and minds open to what God wants to accomplish in us through faith. Seeing the comment prompted me to read Hebrews 11 with a fresh perspective.

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The chapter begins with a very familiar verse, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) I have heard and quoted that verse numerous times, yet I rarely give proper consideration to the next verse. Yesterday it was the one that really resonated with me. Hebrews 11:2 says, “For by it [faith] the elders obtained a good testimony.” As a Christian who seeks to honor God with my life, I want to obtain ‘a good testimony.’ So I read through the first half of Hebrews 11 intentionally seeking to identify what faith in God will allow me to do and accomplish. I compiled quite a list in only the first dozen verses of the chapter.

Faith allows us to:
– obtain witness that we are righteous (v. 4)
– continue our witness after we are dead (v. 4)
– please God (v. 5)
– obey God, even when we cannot see His plans (v. 7)
– become an heir of righteousness (v. 7)
– go where God leads, even when we don’t know where He is taking us (v. 8)
– wait and believe for blessings that take a long time to come to pass (v. 9)
– do the seemingly impossible (v. 11)
– give birth to new nations/ideas/companies/ministries even when we believe we are too old/infirmed/lacking/incapable (v. 12)

I want these things to be accomplished in my life. I want to have a good witness that my life has honored God; I want to be an heir to righteousness; I want to obey and please God; I want to go where God leads; I want to wait patiently for blessings God has promised; I want to be part of the seemingly impossible; and I want to see God birth new ideas and ministries through me despite my limitations. These verses tell me that these things will come to pass to those who have faith in God. Thankfully, I have a strong faith, built over decades of serving the Lord and seeing the blessings that come to those who seek to honor God with their lives.

Perhaps you want God to move in your life, but you feel your faith is weak or is lacking altogether. Fortunately, faith is available to everyone. Paul tells us in Romans 10, that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” (v. 17) Our faith is formed as we hear and read God’s Word. It also comes as we share testimonies of the wonderful, and often miraculous, things God is doing in our lives.

If you want to have faith, or to grow your faith, you must spend time in God’s word and you must spend time with Christians whose faith in God is strong. As you spend time reading God’s Word, praying, and hearing testimonies of what God has done for others, your faith will increase. As your faith increases and you seek to honor God, God will empower you to accomplish great and mighty things that would otherwise be impossible and, in doing, so you will obtain a good testimony.

Isn’t is exciting to think about the amazing things God will be able to accomplish through your life as your faith grows and you allow Him to lead you into new and wonderful areas of ministry and service?

Overcoming Despair

There has been much talk in the media about depression and suicide over the past few weeks. The shock of Robin William’s self-inflicted death has spurred this conversation. Looking from the outside, Robin seemed to have everything that most of us aspire to in life–career success, financial security, and a loving family. We have a difficult time accepting that this man who had brought us so much joy and laughter was not laughing along with us. Depression is a serious condition and far too many people struggle to overcome it.

Most people will never face know the depth of depression that would lead them to consider ending their lives. However, we all experience seasons of sadness and despair. These periods may result from the death of a loved one, illness, failure of a marriage or relationship, loss of employment, or any of a number of other causes. Some times it is difficult to accept our loss and move forward with live. Embed from Getty Images

Recently a number of pressures have weighed heavily on me. I found myself thinking constantly about these pressures. I wasn’t worried about them–I recognized that there was nothing I could do about these situations except to pray. Yet, I had a difficult time letting go and enjoying life. The refrain of the old Peter, Paul, and Mary song Old Coat rang in my head frequently. It goes “Take off your old coat and roll up your sleeves, Life is a hard road to travel, I believe.”

Life is often difficult. None of us will escape hard times. Many of us recall that Jesus himself told his disciples, “In this world you will have tribulation.” (John 16:33) However, that is only a portion of the verse. The complete verse reads, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

The key to having true peace and joy in life is to remember that Jesus has overcome the world. When we fix our eyes upon Jesus instead of focusing on our problem, we can “be of good cheer.” Today another chorus has been my anthem. It is from the old hymn Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus. The chorus says,

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

If you are struggling with sadness and despair, I urge you to fix your eyes on Jesus. In Him you will find true peace and hope.
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