“Purposing the Heart”

Reformations on the outside don’t always equal change on the inside.  It has been proven time and again throughout history, and even throughout the Bible.  A great leader can rise up and make the necessary plans and put programs into place that should foster positive growth in a specified area.  But, if those toward whom the program was geared to serve don’t have a true heart for change, then what we see is a lot of outer stuff being switched around without any real inner transformation taking place.

Jehoshaphat was such a leader.  Jehoshaphat reinvigorated the spirit of worship toward God once more for the people of Judah.  He, himself, “sought the God of his fathers, and walked in His commandments,” (2 Chronicles 17:4, NKJV).  And as such, he was compelled to make the “Book of the Law” available to anyone who would hear.  So he sent leaders throughout the region to teach God’s Word (2 Chronicles 17:7-9).

Another area of reformation that saw positive changes was with the judges.  Men who judge honestly and not take bribes.  Men who would “act in the fear of the LORD, faithfully and with a loyal heart,” (2 Chronicles 19:9, NKJV).

After many ups and downs during his reign, and even a miraculous victory that was won just through praise (2 Chronicles 20), when it came time for Jehoshaphat’s reign to end and he was noted as “doing what was right in the sight of the LORD” (2 Chronicles 20:32, NKJV)), the very next verse tells us the status of the people.  “Nevertheless the high places were not taken away, for as yet the people had not directed their hearts to the God of their fathers,” (2 Chronicles 20:33, NKJV).

Leaders are just that – leaders.  They can go out in front of the pack and try to lay the course for the best plan of action but it is up to the individual to let the compass of his/her heart to be guided in the right direction.  There is a personal responsibility to have a purposeful heart that will intentionally pursue one’s own relationship with God.

How we get on in our relationship with God cannot be put off on another.  We can’t shun the charge to follow wholeheartedly after Him and claim that it’s the fault of others for why we didn’t follow through.

The reason for the lack of follow-through lies literally at the center of one’s heart.  A heart that is not fully devoted to God is a heart that won’t be inclined to continue to live for Him when those people who bring that positive influence are no longer in our lives.  We have to want God for ourselves.  Our hearts have to be intentional in our daily living for Him.

How do we do that?  What does that look like?

A purposeful heart will diligently seek after God.  Seek Him through prayer.  Seek Him in the Word.  Seek Him in times of worship.  A heart that loves the Lord will want to know more about Him and these avenues can help turn one in the right direction.  The psalmist said, “With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee,” (Psalm 119:10-11).

“I sought thee . . .”

“I hid” the word in my heart . . .

“I” denotes it is one’s personal obligation to charter the course of their own heart; to fill it with the purpose of God; to choose “the way of truth,” (Psalm 119:30).

Leaders can lead but we must make it up in our own minds and hearts to want all of Him as our own.  We must have a purposeful heart that steps closer to Him and not turns away (Proverbs 4:26-27).

David, a man after God’s own heart, became knowns as such because his desire, his goal, the purpose of his own heart was totally for God.  He is quoted as saying, “One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple,” (Psalm 27:4).  All the days of his life he wanted his heart directed toward God.

Purposing the heart is being intentional in going after God for one’s self.  Nobody else can do it for you.

“Joy to the World – He Came!”

 

“Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.” (Isaac Watts)

Christmastime, as they say, is the most wonderful time of the year. Christmastime often brings with it sweet thoughts and times of reminiscing with loved ones over the years past.  There’s a celebration of joy in the atmosphere that isn’t felt as prominently during other times of the year.

But, I’m here to tell you that Christmastime is so much more than an emotional response to a holiday and family.  It’s more than the gathering of sweet fellowship and food.

Christmastime is a declaration of all God has wanted to do for mankind since the time He created him.  It’s the time we celebrate God’s love on display in holy determination to have that relationship with man that He so desired.

Christmastime is a celebration of the healing.  There was a rift that was torn by sin between God and man – now it comes together in an era of reconciliation and peace.

Isaiah prophesies of the means by which God ushers this in.  He said, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace,” (Isaiah 9:6).  This is the very foundation of the Christmas story.  Matthew picks it up and tells us in the New Testament,” And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins,” (1:21). Mankind had fallen short of the glory of God, but this little baby had an assignment on His life to save people from their sins!

The Christmas story tells us that He is the fulfilled prophesy that states, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel,” (Isaiah 7:14). We see that come to pass in Matthew 1:23 which states He shall be called “Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”

Down forty-two generations He traveled (Matthew 1:1-17) to be with us. That’s why the carols ring out, “Veiled in flesh the God-head see; Hail the incarnate Deity, Pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel,” (Hark! The Harold Angels Sing – Charles Wesley). He was that “Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth,” (John 1:14).

That’s why Luke lets us know, “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end,” (Luke 1:32-33).

This is what the Christmas story is all about. Joy to the world – He came!

The Bible declares, “And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn,” (Luke 2:7). He was shunned by the world with no one to care other than Mary and Joseph. Nonetheless, He came!

The angels proclaimed that night, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord,” (Luke 2:11). The deliverance of all mankind made His way into the world. God’s plan of salvation broke through the flesh of humanity to rescue in the Spirit.

Joy to the world – He came!

God incarnate manifested Himself in the humility of man. He stepped off His throne in glory to dwell with a sinner like me. He pulled off His royal attire to associate with the filthy dregs of this life.

Joy to the world – He came!

Christmastime we celebrate His birth; we rejoice in His coming. But, that’s not the end of the Christmas story.

He came once so that He could come back again.  The first time He came He was encapsulated in His mother’s womb, riding on a donkey toward Bethlehem to be born. But, the true end of the Christmas story is the next time you see Him, He won’t be that same baby from the womb riding with His mama on a donkey.  He’ll be standing in the air riding the clouds of heaven.

The first time He came He was wrapped in swaddling clothes. The next time you see Him, He will stand before you as the King who broke free from the grave clothes that tried to bind Him, gaining the victory over the grave; gaining the victory over sin and death.

The first time He came only a few lowly shepherds and a few little wise men came to honor Him and pay tribute to the miracle that occurred on that night. The next time you see Him, “Every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father,” (Philippians 2:10-11).  That same baby they ignored.  That same baby they refused to find room for, their mouths are going to open and declare that HE IS LORD!

We celebrate the Christmas story as the ultimate gift of God’s love toward humanity. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” (John 3:16).

But, the Christmas story is more than the celebration that He came. It stands as a reminder every year that if He came once as He said He would, then He’s coming back – just like He said He would!

We love this time of year. There’s no greater feeling than the fellowship and gifts of love shared.  But, once the gifts are unwrapped and once the food is eaten and people return to their homes; let the Christmas story remind you, the King came once, and the King will return once again.

Pope Francis is quoted as saying, “God never gives someone a gift they are not capable of receiving. If he gives us the gift of Christmas, it is because we all have the ability to understand and receive it.”

In preparation of His return, I must ask, “Have you received His gift?”

Joy to the World – He came. And, He’s coming back again. That’s the true end of the Christmas story.

Have a Merry Christmas Everyone!!!!

“Peace on Earth”

Sin has destroyed peace.  Circumstances try to overrun peace.  Emotions can’t seem to grab hold of peace but, if this time of year teaches us nothing else, it’s that peace is still a very real thing to not only seek after but to find.

The Savior was born for peace.  He came to reconcile, restore, and offer peace to mankind of the likes they never could have else wise imagined having.  His peace is not commercial and it’s not superficial.  The peace of Christ is an inner peace that comes from knowing that even through the hardest trials of life, God’s love for each of us is so magnificent that He offered us this great gift, the best Christmas gift we could ever hope for, through His Blessed Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Peace should not be so elusive for the heart to behold.  While the Shepherds were in that field on that holy night, the chorus of the angels rang out, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men,” (Luke 2:14).  Peace is part of the salvation package; it’s part of the gift we have received through Him.  While it may not always seem like it or even feel like it, in Christ you have a peace which, “passeth all understanding,” and this peace “shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 4:7).

Your life hidden in Him is something beyond human comprehension.  You are cemented in a joy that cannot be moved because the One who holds your hope cannot be moved.  Your Redeemer came as a babe and reigns as Victor and He, being the Author of your salvation, is not only your eternal reward in heaven, but He is your peace on earth today.

Father God, Help us through this season.  Not just the holiday season, but these seasons of life that we find ourselves wrapped in.  There are so many questions of why that we may not always understand.  There are circumstances that often we just cannot figure out.  Thankfully, You know it all together and you didn’t ask us to try to know the beginning from the end because You already do.  You asked us to have faith and just rest in the peace that Your Son has already given us.  For many, this time of year is very hard.  For some situations, we can’t begin to imagine the hurt and confusion one carries, so we stand and pray that people everywhere would feel a refreshing of Your peace in their lives today.  AMEN!

“Keep Your Eyes on Jesus!”

“But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying Lord, save me,” Matthew 14:30

There was a point in Matthew 14 where the disciples were not sure if the image they were seeing was actually the Lord. Finding out that it was Him, in a move of boldness, Peter requested, “Bid me come unto thee on the water,” (vs. 28).  Jesus’ response – “Come!” (vs.29).

How difficult, had we not known this familiar story, would it have been for us to get out of that boat and venture to do the impossible?  I mean – really?!  People are not known for walking on water, which is one of the reasons, they originally thought Jesus was a spirit (vs. 26).  Watching Jesus take command over what normally cannot be subdued, moved something inside of Peter to do what Jesus did.

What would that have been like?  Awesome, indeed!  I love to swim so the idea of being able to physically walk on water would make me downright giddy.  Another thing that appeals to me about this story is the courage to at least try.  To see what it was like to break away from the normal and to do something extraordinary.

Extraordinary living!  Isn’t that what being in Christ is all about?  It’s a whole lot of faith mixed with a whole lot of stepping out that produces the results of one who has chosen to see and do life differently than those around him.  The rest stayed in the boat.  They were content with the status quo.  But, Peter felt a special draw to see what it was like to step out of the boat – to see what it was like to stand where Jesus stood.

As Peter found out, the road to extraordinary living can get rough.  A lot of stuff can and will rise up against us as those waves did, and seek to toss about our faith.  What Peter “saw” side-tracked him from getting to where Jesus was.  The truth of Peter’s experience in this story unfolds the same way for many of us.  If only the sea would be calm then we would be alright.  If only the waves of adversity would stop trying to slam you, then would you be able to walk on water, too.

Jesus never promised calm seas all the time.  But, what He did promise was, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world,” (Matthew 28:20).  It is hard to try to live an extraordinary life when one takes their eyes off of Jesus and what He promised.  It’s one thing to recognize Jesus, but then we have the individual responsibility to stay focused on Him.  No matter what the seas are doing in our life, He promised to be there with us.  Always!

“And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Matthew 14:31).  In essence, He was stating that He was right there with Peter, so why did Peter take his eyes off of Jesus?

Sinking in life doesn’t always happen that fast.  Little by little one begins to predominantly focus on the problems of life instead of the Life Preserver, who promised to be there for you.  God wants us to step out into extraordinary living.  By keeping our eyes on Jesus we can do the impossible.  We can walk on water, too!  He is with you, always!

“The Babe of Bethlehem”

“And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,  And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.” Matthew 2:5-6

At the writing of Matthew 2:5-6, over 700 years have gone by since the Old Testament prophet Micah told of a Ruler that would be birthed out of this little town of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2-3).  While over those centuries of waiting, countless babies have entered this world and linked the beginning of their lives to this motherland, only One’s heritage can connect the dots with those long-ago words that herald the coming of the Savior of the world.

He would be the freedom the world has longingly yearned for.  He would be the peace, souls since the beginning of time, have dreamt about.  He would be the Shepherd who would not lead with a rod or a staff, but with His life.  This blessed Babe of Bethlehem would be the all eternal One, whose days are from everlasting (Micah 5:).  He would be the Babe seen as He “who is, and who was, and which is to come, the Almighty,” (Revelation 1:8), and He would change everything the world once knew.

No wonder hearts were stirred.  No wonder souls were searching with excitement.  No wonder kingdoms were in a ruckus.  The Babe of Bethlehem was no ordinary babe.  He was God incarnate, God in the flesh, “God with us,” (Matthew 1:23).  The imperfect people born in this world would need the help of that perfect Savior born in Bethlehem.

The celebration of Christmas is the celebration of that precious Babe who had finally arrived in the world to bring this long-awaited hope.  He that was born as the prophesied Messiah would lift the judgment of condemnation for those who not only seek Him but find Him.  And, they are no longer content to have Him wrapped in swaddling clothes, but their soul’s desire is to wrap Him in their hearts.

 

“Who’s Holding You?”

There is so much hurt and disappointment in the world today. So many people’s hearts are crying out for relief. These verses were laid heavily on my heart to send out as a spiritual S.O.S. to someone somewhere. I have clung to these in my own times of personal trial and I hope they help you also.  Be encouraged that God Almighty, no matter what you are going through today, is holding you in the palm of His hands!

 Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away.  Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.  Behold, all they that were incensed against thee shall be ashamed and confounded: they shall be as nothing; and they that strive with thee shall perish.  Thou shalt seek them, and shalt not find them, even them that contended with thee: they that war against thee shall be as nothing, and as a thing of nought.  For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.” (Isaiah 41:9b-13).

GOD IS HOLDING YOU TODAY!

“Just a little bit more…”

 

Just a little bit more is all it really takes to turn someone’s day around.  I have been hearing some wonderfully inspiring stories lately of people who just do a little bit more than necessary.  It’s not hard to fulfill a requirement but when one chooses, to go beyond the necessary, I absolutely find it heartwarming.  It reminds you there are people who genuinely care, not just for themselves, but for others as well.

One video I recently came across on social mediate wasn’t necessarily grandiose in its delivery, but it was something someone chose to do to put an extra smile on the face of his students.  It was a principal who made up a creative “snow day” song to accompany the normal, drab announcement (link here).

I know, I know.  There are many, many wonderful and touching videos about.  So, why did I choose to focus on this one?  Simply, it put a smile on my face when I saw it.  And, I imagine on the face of those who initially received it.  It was a normal man, doing a normal job, with a little extra umph.

With so much focus on grand this and that, it’s nice to know that in just the ordinary of ordinary days, we can do a little something extra to make someone else’s day.

The Bible teaches us to be “others” centered.  The whole of everything we do on this earth is not just about us.  It’s about the lives we touch along the way.  It’s about the impact we make in the stories we write for our days that include others and what we did to help out just a little bit.  It’s about going the proverbial second mile beyond what I have to do to intentionally seek to make someone else’s day better; stepping out of self to serve another.  What a way to brighten someone’s day and show the love of Christ in action if we adopt more of that second-mile mentality and go beyond our ordinary.  Let’s put a smile on the face of others and quite possibly have a positive impact on our world today.

“And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain,” (Matthew 5:41).  Do the necessary, but then, go just a little bit more 🙂 

 

“Follow the Star!”

Hope.  I have to believe their journey was measured with steps of hope.  They’ve heard the prophecies.  They have studied to know when and where and what to look for and at its appearing in the sky they knew for sure, somehow, some way, that by following that particular star, it would lead them to the source of all hope being fulfilled.  It would lead them to the Messiah, the true King, who is worthy to be honored, worshipped and praised (Matthew 2:1-2).

There’s a lot of following and pursuits that people chase after every day.  But, if those steps aren’t leading us closer to the true King then it is a vain journey.  To have that wonderful life or miracle of newness on any street we don’t need to wait for a fictitious figment of our imagination to come to town.  We need to place one spiritual foot in front of the other and go after the true Star.

Not the twinkling celestial bodies in the sky that give light to the objects below, but the Star who is the “light of the world,” (John 8:12) that allows us to escape the darkness of sin and breathes new life into the dreary souls of these world travelers, illuminating a new path for our journey.

It is Him we are to look for.  It is Christ we are to chase after.  And, as they say, “Wise men still seek Him.”  Therefore, follow the Star.  For He is not only the King of the Jews the men of the old days were seeking after.   He is also the King of our hearts and the fulfiller of all the hope we are in search of.

“Be Happy!”

“Rejoice evermore,” 1 Thessalonians 5:16

“. . . Happy are the people whose God is the Lord!” Psalm 144:15

 Happiness.  Some say it’s overrated.  I tend to disagree.  The Bible speaks over and over again about being blessed, happy, joyful, glad and rejoicing.  With so many different ways of saying it, I believe the Lord has made His point.  He wants His people to be absolutely elated in who they are –  His child!

Too often, we as Christians are waiting for conditions to be right before we choose to be happy about it.  That’s contrary to the Word of God.  Many times when we see words synonymous with being happy in the Bible, there is usually a counterweight of circumstances which doesn’t seem favorable or applicable to happiness.  Take the Beatitudes for instance:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called children of God.

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad for great is reward in heaven . . .”

                                                                        (Matthew 5:3-12).

What the Lord Jesus Christ did was point out numerous circumstances of life that would normally account for not being happy.  But, by putting a statement of happiness in the front of it, He was relating that one doesn’t have to wait for the tides to turn in your favor to declare that blessedness.  The Beatitudes are about going through the storms of life even when the waves seem adverse and still seeing the promise of heaven at work.  Even when it feels overwhelming, to the point of feeling totally surrounded by trouble.  Jesus said happiness can still be found during those times.

How?  “Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad for great is your reward in heaven.”  I WILL NOT trivialize anyone’s hardships in life.  There are some unimaginable things that people have to face every day that hurt; that disappoint.  Situations that seem to do all they can to strip away one’s faith.  Our Lord is not denying the hurt, but what He is saying is there is still a reason to be joyful.

It would be totally unrealistic for one to tell another not to be upset over a wrong committed.  Yet, we have a deeper revelation that beyond this mess there is a reward.  Oh yeah, this stuff here stinks.  But, over there – AWESOME!

We may go through trials and tribulations like anybody else, but one thing we have as opposed to them is the comforting presence of our Heavenly Father.  “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me,” (Ps. 23:4).  How can one not feel a measure of joy and comfort at words spoken such as these?

It just makes me feel that no matter what I am going through, I can “Rejoice evermore,” because, He is there.  He knows.  He comforts me.   He’s thinking about me.  He hears my prayers.  He sees the tears I shed.  I can feel His presence bottling every one of those tears up, working to wipe them away.  I may cry, but I can also rejoice because I have a true, living God who loves me and cares for me.

Not just words of rhetoric but words of substance.  Words that make me happy in spite of it all!  Today, I choose to be happy because I am in Him, and He is in me.  “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning,” (Ps. 30:5).  The tears may cloud over my eyes and fall down my cheeks, but eventually, it has to move and make room for the happiness I have in Him.  I am blessed.