Seeking Great Things

Love and compassion urged Jesus forward when everything within His earthly body cried for Him to turn back..png

In yesterday’s devotion, I laid my heart bare about my current season of life and how I found peace in learning some new things about having joy in the journey. If you didn’t get the chance to read it, I urge you to do so because, in today’s devotion, I want to pick up where I left off and share with you a couple of other Bible passages the Lord has used to encourage my heart. Let’s begin in the book of Jeremiah.

The word that Jeremiah the prophet spake unto Baruch the son of Neriah, when he had written these words in a book at the mouth of Jeremiah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, saying, Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, unto thee, O Baruch: Thou didst say, Woe is me now! for the Lord hath added grief to my sorrow; I fainted in my sighing, and I find no rest. Thus shalt thou say unto him, The Lord saith thus; Behold, that which I have built will I break down, and that which I have planted I will pluck up, even this whole land. And seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not: for, behold, I will bring evil upon all flesh, saith the Lord: but thy life will I give unto thee for a prey in all places whither thou goest.
— Jeremiah 45:1-5

As you can see from this chapter, Baruch had an “I” problem. Woe is me. My grief. My sorrow. I fainted. My sighing. I have no rest. Poor pitiful me! Unfortunately, I hear my own cries and complaints echoing in my ears, so truth be told, I’m no better than Baruch. I’ve been so wrapped up in my personal disappointment and discontentment that I’ve failed to see the needs of those around me. As the Lord put it in the passage above, I’ve been seeking great things for myself. “Who cares about anyone else? So what if people are lost and going to hell? I’m not happy with the way things are going. Poor pitiful me!”  I cringe as I type these words. Though these thoughts have not been in the forefront of my mind, they’ve been there nonetheless as has been proven by my actions and my self-consuming prayers. God, forgive me!

Before I go any further, let me say I truly believe God wants to bless us. He gives us far, far more than we deserve. But God never promised us a happy life. He never assured us we’d never suffer or feel disappointment or grief. In fact, He promised just the opposite (John 16:33). The point I want to get across is, God is not cruel. Life is hard because we live in a sin-cursed world. It’s not God’s fault. It’s ours. But despite that, God goes above and beyond to provide for our needs and even many of our wants because He’s a good, loving Father.

That being said, we saw in yesterday’s devotion how even Jesus became fearful and overwhelmed at the prospect of His crucifixion and all that it entailed. While He was willing to do His Father’s will, He wasn’t exactly happy about the circumstances. It wasn’t a joyful season of life to experience.

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
— Hebrews 12:2

This is a familiar verse, but don’t overlook the words used to describe Jesus’ emotional state. He endured the cross. He despised the shame. Endured and despised. Boy, can I relate to those words? I’ve been enduring a lot lately—going through the motions of doing what needs to be done and trying my best to do so with a good attitude. And I’ve despised the person I’ve become through this season. Cautious. Critical. Cynical. That’s not me. That’s not who I want to be.  

But I want you to notice another phrase within that verse: “for the joy that was set before him.” Not the joy He was experiencing by obeying the Father. Not the joy He felt at laying down His life and suffering agony on the cross. Not the joy of being a good Son. It wasn’t a present joy; it was a joy to come. The joy of defeating Death and Hell. The joy of holding up the keys of Hell in victory. The joy of being reunited with His Father. And last, but certainly not least, the joy of living in eternity with us.

Unlike Baruch, Jesus wasn’t seeking great things for Himself. He was seeking great things for us.  Jesus wasn’t so consumed with His own suffering that He turned His back on others. Instead, He used that love and compassion to keep Him moving forward when everything within His earthly body cried for Him to turn back. He envisioned a brighter day—not for Him, but for us, and that vision gave Him the strength to suffer. Yes, He endured. Yes, He despised. But in the end, He rejoiced, and He will continue to rejoice.

Lord, please help me be more like Jesus and less like Baruch. No matter how difficult the season or how weary I become, please help me keep my focus on others and not myself. Let my love and compassion for them drive me to obedience and surrender. And help me remember there is a brighter day coming!

What Are You Telling Your Heart?

Not only should wespeak the truthfrom our heart,but we should alsospeak truthin our heart..png
Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart.
— Psalm 15:1-2

In today’s passage, David asks a sincere question: who can abide in the presence of God or better yet, who can dwell there? He answers his inquiry in the next couple of verses, beginning with the statements that one must walk uprightly and do good things. Makes sense. After all, we’re not talking about requirements for salvation here but rather what it takes to be at home with God.

Notice the last phrase of verse 2: and speaketh the truth in his heart. I studied this out, and most scholars agree this is referring to being honest with other people, and they could be right. But if you notice the wording, it talks about speaking the truth in the heart, not from the heart. Could it be the psalmist is referring to being honest with ourselves?

If you’ve followed my writing for any length of time, you know I’m an advocate for speaking the truth in love. I lay it all out there—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Some of my readers appreciate that about me while others have unsubscribed from my daily emails and even told me my honesty was anything but refreshing. Oh, well. It goes to show you can’t please everyone. But, I believe in being honest and telling things like they are, but with the voices within my own heart, well, it's often a different story.

What do I believe about myself? On a good day, I feel I am intelligent and capable, a sweet wife, a loving doggie mom, a fair pianist, a compelling speaker and author. On my bad days, however, the messages are not so kind. Instead, I believe I’m lazy, useless, and worthless; a complete failure in every area. The more lies I believe in my heart, the farther I feel from my loving Father. How could He love me? Why would He love me? I’m sure I’m just a disappointment to Him, so I won’t even waste His time. Instead of speaking truth in my heart, I’m allowing a hundred lies or more to steal my peace, my joy, and my fellowship with the One who knows the truth about me more than anyone else. He sees what others can’t and loves me anyway.

We are all careless with our words from time to time, but we’re worse when dealing with ourselves. We show no mercy and offer no compassion. Instead, we judge ourselves harshly and offer condemnation, which results in a gaping void between the Lord and us. After all, it’s hard to abide in the presence of TRUTH when we’re speaking nothing but lies in our heart.

Let’s be kind to ourselves today. Yes, we make mistakes. We are human, right? But we must treat ourselves with as much grace as we offer to others, but more than that, we must speak the truth in our hearts. We’re not failures because Jesus proclaimed we are more than conquerors. We’re not worthless because Jesus believed we were worth dying for. Just as we discussed in yesterday’s devotions, the Bible—not our feelings—is the source of truth.  

It’s God’s word against yours. Which will you believe?

Drop the Stones!

True victory is never accomplished by casting stones!.jpg
The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression.
— Proverbs 19:11

That’s a mouthful, isn’t it?  Deferring anger.  Overlooking offense.  On a good day?  Maybe.  On a typical day, well, it’s much easier said than done, right?  We don’t usually defer anger but instead invite it in.  And rather than overlooking offenses, we excel at pointing them out and rubbing them in the face of our “opponent.”

What gets me is how we often reserve such behavior for those we love and care for the most.  We feel comfortable enough with them to be “real,”  but they probably weren’t aware when they signed up that “real” meant “real mean and ugly.”  They say “white,” so we say “black.”  They hurl insults, so we wind up and throw some right back in their face.  What is wrong with this behavior?  Where’s the love and compassion?

We live in a world that teaches survival of the fittest, so if we don’t want to be trampled, we had to step up and speak out.  We can’t allow others to walk over us; therefore, we must have the last word.  Pride insists we stand up for our opinions, whether they’re right or not.  To back down is unacceptable.  To look the other way when insults are hurled is unthinkable.  To turn the other cheek, surely, is irresponsible.  But that’s not what the Bible teaches.

According to the verse above, the only way to find glory is to let the insult pass.  Overlook the offense.  Let the hurtful words and angry tone drift away on the billowy clouds of love and compassion.  Don’t get even.  Don’t try to one-up the other person with an attack of your own.  Let it go!

That rubs against the grain though, doesn’t it?  In our frustration, we shout, “But isn’t it only natural that I fight back?”  Natural?  Yes.  But I ask you, of what nature?  The fleshly nature urges us to get even; however, the spiritual nature compels us to forgive and let it pass.  So, which will we follow?

True victory is never accomplished by casting stones!