Length of Days

Proverb 3: 1 – 2

My son, do not forget my teaching but let your heart keep my commandments; for length of days and years of life, and peace they will add to you.

Proverbs is one of my favorite books of the Bible and this has long been one of my favorite proverbs. However, now that I am studying the heart I am hearing everything differently. Before when I have read or even when I have meditated on this scripture I have focused on “keeping His commandments” and the benefit that confers onto me. However, that isn’t really what this passage says. It doesn’t say for me to keep the commandments but rather for my heart to keep them. Why the distinction? Well, anything else would be a work of the flesh. Keeping the commandments might make me a good Pharisee but my heart keeping them makes me a good Christian or “friend of Christ” which is my definition of Christianity.

We can help ourselves to remember His teaching by continuing in Bible study. To keep it in our hearts requires us to spend some time with our hearts. We have learned that God has inscribed the entirety of His word on our hearts as part of the New Covenant which we have become a party to through the new birth. However, there is an uncovering or a discovery of all that is written there that must take place in order for us to actually keep His Word with our hearts. Head knowledge is not going to satisfy the condition precedent for the promise that God has given us in this passage. In order to have fullness of days and length of years we must keep the Word with our hearts. That first means falling in love with Jesus since He is the Word and then it means going into our hearts where God resides and allowing that Word to be revealed in the heart library. It must become real to our hearts and we must guard and keep it with our hearts rather than our brains for it to have power. Everything else is just, as one friend calls it, intellectual Christianity; fun for your brain and intellect but without life and power. The Holy Spirit doesn’t live in your brain.

God isn’t promising to do something for us if we will do what He says. He is teaching us that long life is the natural byproduct of keeping His statutes with our hearts. He isn’t so much giving a promise here as showing cause and effect. When you worship God through and with your heart you touch all that He is and when you do that, your life is always improved. So, open up the library vault of your heart through your discovery of the Word of God. Meditate therein until the indelible ink of God has saturated your being. Then all manner of blessing will flow from it.

You thought this was going to be a devotional on healing, didn’t you? Well, it is. To your good health ….

The Heart of the Matter

Matthew 13: 14 – 15

And in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, “You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; and you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; for the heart of this people has become dull, and with their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and return and I should heal them.”

 I cannot believe I never caught this before. Jesus was discussing how the Pharisees and those like them keep on hearing but never really hear and keep on looking but never see. They attend every conference, are at church every week but they never, according to Jesus, understand nor perceive. How catastrophic! They are dutiful but still ignorant. Why? Jesus explains in the next verse. He says their hearts have become dull. That is to say that regardless of how devoted we are about attending church and conferences, listening to tapes or streaming video it is all futile if we do not first engage our hearts.

Now, let’s be frank. A person who is constantly listening to CD’s, etc. is probably a true seeker and God has promised that those who seek find. However, those who haven’t set their hearts to God are going to be dull. In other words they have lost their passion and their hearts truly are not engaged. Jesus is telling us very plainly here that we cannot hear him nor perceive him if our hearts are not tender and open to him.

It seems that understanding is a heart matter rather than an intellectual issue. I didn’t know that. I have been seeking God with my intellect but look at the last bit of the passage. Jesus says that we will understand with our hearts. When we approach Jesus with tender hearts, with spirits which are open to him, then he will touch us and heal us. 

Our answers, our met needs are in Jesus and in the life that he came to earth to procure for us. If we are not living the abundant life that Jesus spoke of in John 10: 10 then we might want to check our hearts. Are our hearts bared before him? Does he have an invitation to abide there? The secrets and mysteries, the deep things of God are to be found through our hearts where we will see and hear. Glory to God for this insight!

Come In the Water

2 Chronicles 34: 27

“Because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before God when you heard His words against this place and against its inhabitants, and because you humbled yourself before Me, tore your clothes and wept before Me, I truly have heard you,” declares the LORD.

There is a huge revelation in this verse for those who can hear it. It is this; let your heart be tender.

I confess that I have experienced great difficulty in this but my difficulty has, in the end, made me a bit of an expert. I have experienced the strain of trying to connect with God through a hard heart and the joy of experiencing Him through a tender heart. I can say with no doubt that one cannot enter into a deep and meaningful relationship with God if one’s heart is tough and calloused. That is why I so often write about allowing God to heal your heart. I know that God longs to have close, personal, daily communion with you but that you cannot hear Him if your heart is not tender.

I cannot help but recall the great frustration I felt when I desperately wanted to hear God speak to me but just couldn’t. I thought He wasn’t speaking. It felt like I was living life in a barren desert. Then, by grace, I learned that if I would be brave enough to allow Him to touch my heart that He would come into my life in a way that would not only satisfy my great hunger but that would also fill me to overflowing with His love, mercy and grace. I know beyond any shadow of doubt that the deep relationship that we crave with our father requires that we have a soft, tender heart through which He can commune. He doesn’t abide in our brains. He abides in our hearts so we must be able to engage our hearts in order to hear Him speak and to enter into the love relationship that He wants to share with us.

Our society does not teach us to be tender-hearted, rather the opposite in fact. Yet, many of you long deeply, hunger even, for the kind of relationship with the Father that you hear other people talk about. Honestly, it is natural for you to yearn for Him in that way. Your spirit, that place where your life force resides, craves the connection with the Holy Spirit. It is life. So, we must go against our training to allow ourselves to feel, to be tender. Frankly, many people do not have the courage for this kind of journey but once we realize the prize the journey becomes so much easier. There is no need for fear really. When you touch your heart you will find God and He is well able to care for you. It is what He wants to do after all.

If there is one encouragement I would give you above all others it is to allow God to touch your heart. Allow Him to heal the fears, the injuries and answer all of the questions. When we allow Him to heal our hearts then the tenderness which is His nature begins to saturate our beings. I am not telling you that you will turn into a crème puff. Actually, it is just the opposite your heart will become tender but you will have more courage than ever before. Frankly, it is fear that causes most people to harden their hearts. Once you have touched God in your heart and have the truth of Him living there you will have the courage of David. You will find that you also have the tenderness of David as well. You are going to like the real you that is revealed as the walls begin coming down and trust me, the people around you will too. The real you is glorious but is hidden in the recesses of your heart. Open up your heart and let the glory shine out. In your tenderness you will find great power and you will find love. Come on, jump in, the water is fine.

Heart Talk

Psalm 27: 8

When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, O LORD, I shall seek.”

The whole Bible; the law and the prophets are contained in this little verse so how shall we speak about it? There is one word which jumped out at me from this passage. It is the word “heart”. David received the Word of the Lord with his heart and responded from his heart. I wonder if this revealed “heart response” is the reason that God called David a man after his own heart (1 Samuel 13: 14).

You see, my first instinct would have been to receive God’s instruction with my mind. Then I would probably analyze it for a week or two and then I would get around to actually doing what He said. As it turns out, though, God is not asking us to seek Him with our minds. He wants us to seek Him with our hearts. It just amazes me that David’s heart answered God instead of his mind. I didn’t even realize our hearts had a voice. I wonder what it sounded like when David’s heart answered God. No doubt God heard him.

So, what is my heart saying to God today? What is yours saying? Our culture validates brain activity but does very little to honor works of the heart, much less the voice of the heart. But God isn’t speaking to our minds. He doesn’t live in our brains. He is a heart God and we must learn to open our hearts to His voice. And then we must learn to speak to Him out of our hearts. There is where the real communication takes place and it is always where relationships are forged. I have heard of getting a check-up from the neck up. Perhaps it is time we got a heart physical.

The Sacrifice of the Heart

Psalm 50: 14

 “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving.”

 Psalm 51: 15 – 17

O Lord, open my lips, that my mouth may declare Your praise. For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.

Psalm 50 and 51 might best be understood when read together for they shine light upon each other. In Psalm 50 God is speaking and when you read the psalm in its entirety you see that God says the he owns all of the cattle, knows every bird and so on. He does not require Israel, or us, to sacrifice goats, sheep or cattle so that He can feed Himself. It was not the sacrifice of animals that He wanted. He said to offer Him a sacrifice of thanksgiving.

David responds to God in Psalm 51. He first prays that the Lord will give him a mouth full of praise then he goes on to explain that he understands that the sacrifice the Lord wants is the sacrifice of praise. He tells God that he would gladly give sacrifices of burnt offerings if that is what the Lord wanted but that he knows that is not what the Lord seeks. In truth, I would say that the burnt offerings were necessary because people would not give the Lord what He sought; hearts devoted to Him and mouths which offered praise and thanksgiving. David reveals to us that what God really wants are our hearts.

David spoke about the human heart which is acceptable to God in terms of being broken. He also speaks of a broken spirit. When you look up the word “broken” in Strong’s Concordance you find that it does describe something that is broken. It literally means to burst. Other synonyms found in Strong’s are crush, destroy, hurt quench. This was not what I expected to find when I looked up the word. I was thinking of a heart which is not proud or haughty, a humble heart and spirit so I was surprised that David used a word that truly does mean broken. There is one other term that Strong’s uses in defining this word which, I believe, reconciles both viewpoints. The word shabar (broken) means break down, in pieces, etc. but in it is the idea of rebirth. The Strong’s definition literally says “bring to birth.” This means that God wants to receive our hearts in such a condition that he can rebirth them in His glory.

We sometimes talk about people having to hit rock bottom before they can get their lives in order. Perhaps there is an element of that kind of contriteness in this verse. Remember that David has already prayed for God to create in him a clean, upright heart (v. 10). I believe what we learn from this is that which God wants from us is a heart which has been cleansed of the worldly mess and all of our preconceived notions so that He can write His truth upon it. God will create a new, glorified creature in each one of us but he needs that clean, white slate upon which to write. He is not going to argue doctrine with us. He is not going to battle with us over what the truth really is. He will give us all truth and wisdom freely but we must first give Him a clean slate upon which He can write. We must prepare our hearts in the sense that we must offer them to God with a willingness for Him to fill them with Himself and His words. We do not have to do any of the work to clean them other than pray and receive. Jesus has already provided the heart wash and stocked it with cleaning fluid. All we have to do is to decide to drive our hearts through it. That’s all but it is a critical piece of the process. We must first do our part and then Father, Son and Holy Spirit will take over from there.

 So this is the sacrifice that the Lord requires of us, our hearts. 

God is Love

1 John 4: 8

The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

God is love, not thought. That means that He is not in our brains. This is a heart thing. I don’t like it any more than you do. I wish I could be very academic about this whole “God” thing but it is fruitless and Jesus told us to go and bear fruit. We need to have an experiential knowledge of God’s love. What does that mean? We must know this love in our hearts. We must experience it. You can study love with your vast intellect until you turn blue but you will never understand it until you allow it to penetrate your heart and you finally experience the fullness of love. God is love so the only way you can ever experience Him is to let love reign supreme in your life. In order to do that, you have to let your heart play the leading role. It does not matter how smart we are. You may have a Mensa IQ but when it comes down to the bottom line that great intellect just won’t cut it. You don’t comprehend love with your mind. You can only have a true understanding of love when you let your heart take the lead. So if we are going to know God, if we are ever going to understand His unfathomable riches we are going to have to learn to hear Him with our hearts. We must learn to seek Him with our hearts rather than our minds and we must allow His Word to penetrate, not our thinking, but rather our feelings and our believing. Honestly, in order to be a true Christian we must engage our hearts.

I want you to know that I cannot think of any more uncomfortable news to have to receive personally but I have heard so much about the heart lately that if Balaam’s donkey came up to me and brayed, “Heart,” I don’t think I would even be surprised. There is a reason that God has filled the environment with heart language. He is trying to reach us on the level where He can change our lives. 

Since God is love the only way we will ever come to know Him is to engage our hearts. Love is not of the mind and cannot be comprehended by the gray matter. It takes a beating heart pumping warm, red blood to receive love. Everything God says is love. Every answer you need is love. Therefore, in order for us to receive God, the love of God, blessings and answers we must allow our hearts to become places of openness and conversation. How do you do that? I don’t know yet. I am still working it out myself but I know that the more I allow my heart to live and to be free from the shackles of my mind, the more life and love God is able to pump into me. God is love. Love is a condition of the heart. If we want to know God then we are going to have to let Him speak to our hearts. It may be uncomfortable for some of us but we really are going to be so glad we opened up and let Him in. Be blessed!

Jesus, Your Brother

Luke 8: 21                  NIV

He replied, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.”

Jesus taught how we can be one of his relations, or part of his family.  It is a two-step process.  First we must hear God’s word.  Second, we must put it into practice.  His brother James was listening.  James later wrote, “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers, who delude themselves” (James 1: 22).  He said we are supposed to “receive the word implanted” (v. 21).

First we must each ask ourselves, “Do we want to be close with Jesus, even as close as a brother?”  Secondly, “What are we willing to do in order to achieve that personal closeness with him?”  Frankly, not everyone is willing to enter into a personal relationship with Jesus.  That’s okay, it is a personal choice but for those who do crave intimacy with the Lord Jesus he has shown the way. 

Jesus put an emphasis on God’s word.  He told us we must put ourselves in a position to hear God’s word.  Bear in mind they didn’t have the written word in abundance like we do today.  We can “hear” the word in many ways.  One of those ways, I would suggest, is in reading it for ourselves.  Furthermore, there is an incredible amount of free teaching available on television, radio and the internet.  Many ministers even allow people to download this content to their own device.  I find that remarkable.  What other profession gives away their work product for free?  We can hear great messages every single day. 

Brother James teaches us that we are to receive this word implanted.  When you hear the word, you must then receive it.  Just hearing someone speak the Word of the God won’t do a thing for you if you don’t receive it.  I believe James is telling us to plant the Word of God in our hearts.  This principle is well taught by Jesus in Luke 8: 15 where the sower sows the word to our hearts.  There are quite a few scriptures that speak about the relationship between God’s Word and our hearts.  Look at Deuteronomy 6:6 for example, “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.”  This is our starting place then.  We can’t do God’s Word if we do not first hear it and in that hearing receive it into our hearts.  This is not a brain game.  It is a matter of the heart.  What, then, is the condition of your heart?  Is it the good soil that Jesus speaks about in Luke 8 or is it hard like the stony ground?

Fellowship with Jesus begins with God’s Word.  Perhaps hearing that thrills you.  I hope so.  Maybe, though, you are one of those who does not want to give time and place to the Word of God.  I am very sorry because there is no getting around this one.  No amount of intellectualization, even, is going to provide an argument that supports that position.  We must all come to a place in our lives where we are willing to let Jesus be the absolute Lord of our lives and do, therefore, what he says.  Either he is Lord of our lives or he is not but if he is then we should follow his instructions and his teachings.  He came to give us abundant life.  That is all he is trying to do with his instruction.  He is trying to bless us but in order for us to receive the greatest of gifts we are going to have to taste humility.

As you turn your face to Jesus, soften your heart and receive his word implanted therein.  Then we can talk about putting it into practice.  Then we probably won’t have to.