A Matter of the Heart

Several of today’s texts center in on the notion of God choosing someone unlikely to fulfill His task.  I was taken by 1 Samuel 16: 6-13:

6 When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.’ 7But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’ 8Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, ‘Neither has the Lord chosen this one.’ 9Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, ‘Neither has the Lord chosen this one.’ 10Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, ‘The Lord has not chosen any of these.’ 11Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Are all your sons here?’ And he said, ‘There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.’ And Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.’ 12He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, ‘Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.’ 13Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.

dura_synagogue_wc3_david_anointed_by_samuel1323376831829In this passage, God is leading Samuel to anoint the next king of Israel.  Because of Saul’s unfaithfulness, there was a need for a new king. Samuel was being led by the spirit to go and find the next leader.  And is led to Bethlehem.  Led to Jesse and to his sons.

And now he has to listen to God to discern who would be the one to be king.

But look what God tells him before all this starts – do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.

It doesn’t matter how they look, how tall or strong or powerful they are.  What matters is this.  Where is their heart?  Becuase it is is the heart that in the end determines the actions.

If the heart is with God, the actions will be.

God doesn’t judge by what is outside, He judges by what is inside.

Because what is on the inside determines everything.  My favorite football players have always been the little guys.  The small, fast players, that have no business being out there with they giants.  You can measure height and speed and strength. But you can’t measure heart.  There are these plays that may not “look” like they will be great.

But you can’t judge the heart.

You may not feel like you can do great things for God. There may be too many things, in your mind, standing in your way.  You may not look the part.

That doesn’t matter.  Where is your heart?  Where is your desire?  Where is your dream?  If God has called you to it, if God has placed it upon you, you can do it.  His approval is the approval that you need.

So today, let’s know that if God has called us, that’s all that matters.  It’s a matter of the heart.  And let’s be careful how we judge others.  Let’s not make the same mistake of looking only at the outside; let’s remember what really counts, the heart.

As your heart goes, so goes your life.  If your heart is His, then you can do whatever it is that God is calling you to!

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The Desires of our Heart?

heartballoonOne of the things that it is important to do when reading the Bible is to understand the context of a verse or a passage before taking it and running with it.  What does that mean?

The best way that we can make sense of verses in the Bible is to look at verses that are around it.  As we look at verses that are around certain passages in the Bible, we can understand those passages.

What does that even mean?  Let me show you.  One of the passages of the Bible that can most often misunderstood is a passage from our reading today, Psalm 37: 4, where it says this: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

Boom, Ole Miss is winning the national title next year.  That would make my heart happy.

See, I’m pretty sure that is not what that passage is talking about.  This passage is not saying that God’s only purpose is to make us happy and grant us wishes.  So then, what is it saying?  Let’s look at the context and read this passage.  Listen to Psalm 37: 1-4:

Fret not yourself because of evildoers;
be not envious of wrongdoers!
For they will soon fade like the grass
and wither like the green herb.
Trust in the Lord, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Trust in the Lord.  Do good.  Befriend faithfulness.  And even part of that passage, delight yourself in the Lord.  And, He will give you the desires of your heart.

God will give you the desires of your heart when (and this is the key) when He has changed your heart.  God will give us our hearts desire when His spirit has changes our hearts desire.

This verse is not about us getting what we “want.”  This verse is about God changing us.  God making us more like Himself.  God growing us. And when God has changed our heart, our hearts will long for Him.  And when our hearts long for Him, we will only be satisfied with Him.

See that’s the problem sometimes.  CS Lewis said that we are far too easily pleased.  We settle for less than the absolute best. What is the absolute best?  God.

He desires to give us Himself.

And in truth, that should be our hearts desire.  Because nothing else will satisfy our hearts.  But Him.

Today, He will give us our hearts desire.  But first He wants to change our heart.  And we that happens, we will see that the only thing that can truly give us life is not the stuff of this world.

But Him.

Today, may we delight our hearts in God.  And in that, may we find all that we seek.

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How’s Your Heart

One of the things that I love about the Christian faith is this. Actions start with the heart. What is on the outside starts with what is on the inside.

Our hearts shape our actions.

If you want to “act” right, you need to “get” right. For what is done/thought/believed in the heart will show it’s self in our actions.

Listen what is said this morning in Deuteronomy 30:4-6:

If your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there the Lord your God will gather you, and from there he will take you. And the Lord your God will bring you into the land that your fathers possessed, that you may possess it. And he will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers. And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.

heart_circumcisionIn Deuteronomy God is giving the law for the second time. In this book, He is giving the law to the children of Israelites that left Egypt. The parents had disobeyed God, and because of that, they were not allowed into the promised land.

Now, the children are getting ready to cross the Jordan River and take possession of the land. But before, God gives them the Law. And tells them that there will come a time when God will not just mark them outwardly, but He will circumcise their hearts.

He will change their hearts. And when their hearts are changed, it will change their actions, it will change their lives. It will start from the inside. And what starts on the inside will change the outside.

We are an inside out religion. What happens on the inside changes the outside.

So, if your actions are not what you’d like them to be, or what God would like them to be, let me ask you a question. How’s your heart?

If He has your heart, He will have your actions. That’s the way that it works.

Today, for our lives, our families, our everything, how is your heart. Your heart will determine your actions. In that, that’s the way it flows.

Today, may God make our hearts in new. And in that, may we live the life of grace that He wants us to live!

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones.

Your Heart’s Desire

God wants good things for you. He really does. God wants what is best for you. Really.

God wants to give you, in your life, the good things that are going to bless you and make your life better and more whole.

God longs to do these things for you.

Listen to what Jesus tells us in Luke 12:32-34 today:

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

He says that it’s the Father’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom. That’s pretty cool. It’s God’s good pleasure to this for us. It’s His desire. It’s His will. He wants to give us the kingdom.

But, before we run too far with this, let’s think about what that means. Look at what it says in verse 34. Where our treasure is, there will be our heart.

God wants to give us the kingdom. He wants to give us good things. But first, He wants to change our hearts.

Because what happens is that when He changes our hearts, we want different things. The reason that God will give us the kingdom, after He changes our hearts, is because at that point, what we want is what He wants.

So, today, what is your heart’s desire? Is it God? Is it His kingdom? Is it His life? If so, then today, you will be satisfied. Today, you will find life.

Is your heart’s desire something else. Then you can seek it and find it. But without God as the center of it, the center of your heart and life, you won’t be truly happy.

Today, God wants to change you heart and give you what you truly desire, and truly need.

Him. And His life.

Today, and each day, may God be our hearts desire.

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones.

What the Lord Looks At

What does the Lord look for? What does He value in our lives? What matters? What’s important.

We see in this passage the Lord tell Samuel, don’t look at the outward, don’t look at the height of a person or their appearance, look at the heart. Look at the inside.  Listen to what 1 Samuel 16:6-7 says:

When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

Today, you are going to have a lot of people come into your life. You are going to have a lot of people in your life today. You are going to have conversations with many different people.

At work, at school, at Wal Mart, wherever.

How do you see them? What are you looking at? What are you looking for? What do you see?

The Lord looks at the inside. The Lord looks at the heart. The Lord is not guided by what is on the outside, but what is on the inside.

What about us? What do we look at? What do we look for? What do we see?

Do we judge others for their outward looks? Or do we look inside? Do we look at the heart? Do we look at what truly matters?

This text tells us how God looks at us. And it raises the question, how do we look at others?

Today, how will we?

Going through the Motions of Religion

Normally I reflect upon some daily suggested scriptures that can be found in our weekly Salt and Light bulletin at Asbury.  Today, though, in my own personal devotional time, I read a verse from Matthew 23 that really resonated with me. I wanted to talk a litte about it. Sorry for going off the board!

In Matthew 23, Jesus criticizes the Pharisees. They were the religious teachers of His day. They were the ones that thought the law and were the authorities for most people on what the law required and how a person of faith was supposed to live.

They wanted the people to keep and live by the law, because they were afraid. They remember what happened in the past when the people didn’t keep the law. We see in the Old Testament God say – if you keep the law, you will be blessed and have this land. If you don’t keep it, you will lose it.

The people didn’t keep it. They did their own thing and went their own way. And because of that, they lost the land. So, the leaders associated it, keeping law = land. Breaking law = losing land.

So, they were going to keep the law. And they added to the law their own laws as safeguards. They were’t going to take any chances.

So, when Jesus comes and does things they perceive as breaking law, like healing on the Sabbath, they go crazy. No! You can’t do that! No! Stop it! The reason they go so agree is because they were afraid. They had misplaced keeping the law for the point of faith.

And we see Jesus correct them today. Listen to what He says in Matthew 23:23-24:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!

He said that they had kept parts of the law, but had missed the weightier and more important parts. Justice. Mercy. Faithfulness.

They had “right actions.” But they hadn’t given God their hearts. They were going through the motions of religion. But they had missed the point of it all.

Today, God doesn’t just want you act religious. He wants control of your heart. Because if He has your heart, He will have your actions.

Today, don’t worry about being religious. Worry about giving Him your everything. And if He has your all in all, He will have you actions. Today, don’t worry about going through the motions of religion. Today, make sure you are giving Him the faith of your heart!

And when He has that, you will have all you need!

Inside Out

My ringtone is a song by Hillsong United called “From the Inside Out.” Every time someone calls me, it’s the song that I hear. It’s also my alarm sound for my alarm in the morning, so it’s the first thing I hear in the mornings, normally several times as I keep hitting snooze 🙂

That song is one of my favorites and it has a foundation in what we read here in Jeremiah 31:31-33.  Listen to what this text says:

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

In this passage, the God is speaking through the prophet about the days that are to come. In the Old Testament, there is so much emphasis placed on the covenant. Israel is to keep it. They are to be obedient. They are to follow. They are to to obey.

Over and over in scripture, God tells the people, if you do your part, I’ll do my. (Or course we read over and over again in scripture, that God is faithful, in spite of how unfaithful the people are). But, in spite of God’s faithfulness, the people never keep the covenant. They always wander away. They always choose wrong. They always do wrong. They always choose their way instead of God’s way.

So, God says this. There will come a time when instead of giving you laws to command, I am going to write the law on your heart. Instead of it being about your actions, it will be about your heart.

Not that your actions won’t be important. Because they will. We will still have “stuff” we are supposed to be doing (loving, serving, caring, and so many others) but these things come because of the change that God has made on our heart.

We are an inside out religion. God changes our hearts. And that in turn changes our lives. We are changed from the inside out.

So, today, when the question is ask, does God have your actions, the first question asked is this. Does He have your heart?

Today, may we be obedient, from the inside out