A Change of Heart

29 09 2014

Psalm 119:57-64

I passed by the mirror and gasped in surprise. It had been a busy day. I hadn’t really thought much about it, until I saw myself in the mirror and noticed that I needed some “adjustments.” The usual thoughts ran through my head. Who had seen me? How long had I looked like that? How many people do you think noticed? I took a moment, got everything just right, and then set off on the rest of my day.

The eighth stanza of Psalm 119 reminds us of the purpose of investing ourselves in Bible study. The Bible is like a mirror. It reflects God’s glory, His holiness, His wonder, and His power. It reveals His heart, thunders with His presence, and invites us in ever closer. It also gives me a reflection of myself. It shows me as I truly am, stripping away the fantasies and fuss that we like to layer on as we walk through this world. And then it calls for a change of heart.

When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to your testimonies;” – Psalm 119:59

Sometimes we open the Bible for comfort, guidance, or hope. We will find all of those things in God’s Word. But transformation is at the heart of God’s intent for His Word. He wants His Word to penetrate who we are, burrowing in deep and taking up residence in the very heart of who we are. He wants us to gaze long at His reflection and make a move of repentance, surrender, or obedience – whatever it takes to make our reflection look more like His.

My Jesus Resolution today is to look in the mirror. God’s Word has the power to change my heart. Every page holds up the standard of His goodness, the calamity of my sin, and the grace that empowers the transformation He wants to work in my life. I don’t want to read the Bible casually and miss it. I don’t want to come to its pages with my own agenda in place and walk right past it. I want to open my Bible today anticipating, expecting, excited about the change of heart that God has in store for me.





Songs for the Journey

26 09 2014

Psalm 119:49-56

Psalms is a book of songs placed right in the middle of the Bible. God knows how important music is to our hearts. He understands what lifts our moods, changes our steps, refocuses our minds, and re-energizes our souls. Music has tremendous power. It engages the heart, as well as both sides of the brain. Music creates memories, cements emotions, rekindles determination, and inspires us to take the next step.

In the seventh stanza of Psalm 119, there is a line that makes me smile. “Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojourning.” (Psalm 119:54) The writer of the psalm knows that the way is long. It is often dark, must sometimes be traveled alone, and has rough patches and hidden dangers. Songs change our journey. The best songs don’t encourage us to wallow in the darkness, but kindle a desire to keep our eyes on the Light.

What is your favorite hymn? Why does it speak your soul? Singing God’s words has a way of planting them deep inside of us like nothing else can do. It allows them to bubble up and become a source of strength when we feel like we are falling apart. They become an anthem of joy when our smiles explode. They become tools to help us experience God’s nearness, His power, and His promises in the ordinary, step-by-step responsibilities of the everyday.

My Jesus Resolution today is to sing. The psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs that God gives us are more than melodies of the moment. They are encouragers, supports, fuel, and kindling for the anthem of praise that my life is supposed to proclaim. Today I am going to turn off the radio and sing. I’m going to sing out loud. I’m going to sing unashamed. I’m going to let the words of God’s songs draw me deeper into His presence. I want the songs I sing on my journey to be the songs that transform me into the image of Jesus.





Trapped

24 09 2014

Sometimes the world presses in hard. The darkness closes in, drowning out the light, leaving us feeling like we are suffocating. We are trapped. Trapped by circumstances. Trapped by our own choices. Trapped by another’s bad decisions. Just trapped. When we are trapped, it feels like the walls are closing in. Fear rises, hope fails, as our hearts beat wildly in our chests as we search for a way of escape. Satan is an expert at drawing lines around our hearts, creating boundaries in places where the truth is meant to set us free.

There is a desperateness to the sixth stanza of Psalm 119. In the midst of taunts and shame, the psalmist turns to God’s Word for hope and assurance. The Bible reveals God’s truth in a world that is filled with lies. God’s Word offers grace when we are confronted with nothing but guilt and shame. His voice whispers hope for those who are trapped. His words are powered by love, illuminated by truth, and echo with His faithfulness.

And I shall walk in a wide place, for I have sought your precepts.” (Psalm 119:45) Do you see it? When we seek His face, devote ourselves to His Word, and delight in His commands, the result is that we walk in a wide place. Imagine expansive vistas. Open spaces. Freedom to run, jump, dance, sit still. Room to breathe. Room to breathe in His grace and exhale praise. No more being suffocated. No more being trapped. His Word is the key that opens the door to freedom.

My Jesus Resolution today is to rest in the wide open spaces of God’s mercy. Sometimes I do feel trapped, like there’s no way out, but the key to full release is in His Book. My circumstances may not change. I may have to walk through dark times. But I don’t have to feel trapped. In His presence, there is hope, healing, and room to let go of fear and embrace joy.





Stuck

22 09 2014

Psalm 119:33-40

Sometimes we get stuck. Stuck in a relationship that bleeds our hearts dry, stuck in a sin that ruptures our faith, stuck in a situation in which we can’t see our way out, or just stuck in a place that saps our joy and pokes holes in our peace. When we are stuck, we feel like we can’t move forward, can’t escape the weight pulling at our souls, or can’t find a way for tomorrow to look different than today.

The fifth stanza of Psalm 119 is a cry to God to move in our lives so that we can go from being stuck to moving forward. Each line of this part of the psalm is a request for movement.

Teach me … let me see beyond the limits of my own understanding.

Give me … provide me with the resources I need to move forward.

Lead me … point me in the right direction.

Incline my heart … pull me away from sin and towards your love.

Confirm to your servant … let me be so certain of your promises that I can see light, even when things are very dark

Turn away the reproach … let grace, rather than fear, define my actions

My Jesus Resolution today is to pray for God to help me move. Sometimes I get stuck. I get in a rut that narrows my perspective, squeezes my confidence, and constricts my hope. But God doesn’t mean for me to live a stuck, just-getting-by, barely-holding-my-head-above-water, kind of life. He is bigger than whatever has me stuck. His power is stronger than the concrete holding my feet to the ground. God designed me to run in His commandments, walk by His side, and soar in His grace. When I move in Him, I get to experience the freedom that He intended for my heart.





A Bigger Heart

19 09 2014

Dr. Seuss was a philosopher and a keen observer of human nature. His stories are vibrant pictures of our hearts, both who we are and who we want to be. My favorite is the story that he wrote in 1957, entitled How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The tale follows a mean-spirited Grinch who is bothered by the holiday festivities that fill the town of Whoville. Determined to squash their joy, he sneaks into town and steals Christmas. Little does he know that the bows, packages, and lights are just the overflow of the love they have in their hearts. Watching the Whos celebrate, even when everything was gone, transforms the Grinch. As the story goes, his heart grew three sizes that day.

“I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!” – Psalm 119:32

The truth is that the Grinch isn’t the only one who needs a bigger heart. My heart squeezes small when I let selfishness run rampant, bitterness bloom, and discouragement dig in deep. The fourth stanza of Psalm 119 contains a prayer and a desperate cry for a bigger heart. Filling ourselves of God’s Word, letting His voice rumble in our souls, and leaning in closer to hear His quiet whisper will stretch our hearts in unimaginable ways. That stretching will shape the contours of who we are. It will change how I see, what I hear, and how I respond to the world around me.

My Jesus Resolution today is to ask God for a bigger heart. Stretching isn’t always comfortable or easy. It requires giving up the familiar in order to be pulled and shaped within the parameters of His purpose. And yet, I want a bigger heart. A bigger heart has more room for joy, peace, praise, and celebration. In the end, a bigger heart will help me look more like Jesus.





Open Eyes

17 09 2014

Psalm 119:17-24

Did you ever play hide and seek as a child? Most people like to be hiders. Very few people enjoy being the seekers. When you hide, you get to hurry around in search of the best place of concealment. You listen carefully for the seeker, holding your breath as they pass by you, hoping that they don’t discover your secret place. There is disappointment if you’re found, but triumph if you remain undiscovered. The seeker, on the other hand, has to close their eyes and count. When they reach 100, they have to do the hard work of searching out the hiders. Victory comes when you discover what has been hidden.

In the third stanza of Psalm 119, the psalmist asks God for open eyes. God doesn’t hide Himself from us, nor is His word a secret. But I still have trouble seeing. Distractions, worries, busyness, pleasures, and enticements make it difficult for me to always see and appreciate the riches of God’s word. Sometimes I read His Word, but fail to really see the beauty it contains. Sometimes I read His Word, but resist surrendering to the transformation it calls me to embrace. And to be honest, sometimes I just want to hide from His voice and do my own thing.

Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” (Psalm 119:18)

God wants to turn us into seekers. He wants us to search out the wondrous things, amazing truths, deep treasures, and startling beauty that are contained in His Word. He wants us to have hearts that hunger to find His gifts, to enjoy His blessings, and to delight in His wisdom.

My Jesus Resolution today is to pray for open eyes. What might happen if I made Psalm 119:18 my prayer each time I opened my Bible? God wants us to open those pages anticipating being awestruck, challenged, inspired, pierced, and changed. Too often, I open my Bible with my own agenda, hiding my heart from the God who seeks me out. Today I want to be a seeker, and open my eyes in wonder at how God reveals Himself to me in His Word.





Keep It Pure

15 09 2014

Psalm 119:9-16

Purity isn’t really valued in our society. Sure, we all want clean air and fresh water, but purity of heart, mind, and spirit is seen as something naïve or quaint. While protecting the environment is important, God wants us to be vigilant about protecting the purity of our souls.

The second stanza of Psalm 119 begins with a question. “How can a young man keep his way pure?” We are not the only society to struggle with being saturated with sin or immersed in immorality. Just hoping that we can walk through the gauntlet of temptations and distractions unscathed is not going to be enough to keep ourselves pure. If we want to be pure, we have to set up a guard, a sentential, around our hearts. The answer to the psalmist’s question is that purity is best guarded by the Word of God.

When we store up His Word in our hearts, it not only brings us comfort, teaches us about righteousness, and gives us guidance, it offers us a protection that we can’t find anywhere else. His Word helps us navigate through the darkness of our culture. It helps us see His truth in the midst of the world’s lies. It lifts up His standard, offers us a refuge, extends grace, and holds us accountable. It serves as a shield, an anchor, a lamp, and a guardian. When we fill our minds with the Word of God, there isn’t any room left for the impurity of the world.

My Jesus Resolution today is to value my purity. Pure things don’t stay pure by accident. Keeping my way pure requires me to be diligent about setting a guard around my heart. This piece of Psalm 119 challenges me to seek, store up, declare, delight, meditate, fix my eyes, and not forget the riches of His Word. Committing myself to these seven actions sets a guard around my heart that helps me keep it pure.