Say What Now?

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. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour. In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the Lord. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not. He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved.
— Psalm 15

In the above passage, the psalmist begins by asking a single question worded in a couple of different ways: who can abide in the Lord’s presence? Then, he continues the passage by answering his query. I think we can all agree, based on the rest of the chapter, the one who can dwell in God’s presence is one who is upright, good, and seeking to do God’s will, right? It’s pretty straightforward.

Still, as I read through chapter 15, a single phrase jumped out and practically slapped me in the face. It’s a simple group of words, easily overlooked, but God used it to remind me of a powerful truth—truth itself. “Speaketh truth in his heart.” Notice, it doesn’t say this man (or woman) speaks truth from the heart. It plainly states in the heart. Upon recognizing that, I was forced to examine what things I was speaking in my heart, and I was shocked to discover more lies than truth.

“I’ll never get better. No matter what I do, my health will continue to get worse until I waste away.”

“I’m such a loser. Look at what everyone else is accomplishing and look where I am.”

“We’ll never make it to the mission field. People don’t care enough to give to missions anymore.”

“I might as well quit while I can. This road is obviously far too difficult for me.”

“I’m supposed to be a helpmeet to my husband, but I guess that’s just one more thing I’m failing at.”

I wish I could tell you the list ends there, but it doesn’t. And the saddest part is these vicious lies spin about in my heart and mind day after day. . .and night. Is it any wonder then I often feel so far from God even though I’m spending time with Him daily? I read my Bible. I spend time in prayer. I also spend quiet time just resting in Him, trying to dwell in His presence.  Of course, that time is often interrupted with a flurry of lies that threaten to drown me with their constant outpouring. So, I go about my day, hoping and praying to find some peace and joy in the midst of what feels like a defeated life.

On the one hand, I’m doing the right things to live a life in step with my Savior, but in this area, I’m missing the mark. I’m not speaking the truth in my heart, especially in what I have to say about myself. I’m a harsh and cruel critic, and the enemy tries to convince me I’m only being honest with myself, but he’s a liar and cannot be trusted.

There are many verses in the Bible I can claim to replace those lies with truth. One of the most powerful and far-reaching ones is Philippians 4:13: I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. That means I can get better. I can accomplish what God has called me to do. We can make it to Wales. I can continue to travel this road. And I can be the helpmeet God desires me to be. I can do these things and much more through Christ working in and through me. That’s the truth, straight from the mouth of God.

Dear one, perhaps like me, you’ve been speaking lies in your heart. If so, I urge you to replace those lies with the truth. No matter what you’re facing, God is big enough to handle it. And no matter how worthless you feel, God assures us, we are fearfully and wonderfully made. If we want to spend more time in God’s presence and less time in the dumps of despair, we would do well to guard our hearts against the lies we say and believe. It makes all the difference in the world!

What's Holding You Captive?

In my personal devotion time, I’ve been working on a study about the mind and thoughts. It’s been quite educational and has helped me to see things in a way I never saw them before. I doubt I will share every lesson with you (though the Lord may lead me to do so at a later time), but this one was just too good not to pass on.

And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones. But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him, And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not. For he said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit. And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many. And he besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country. Now there was there nigh unto the mountains a great herd of swine feeding. And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them. And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea. And they that fed the swine fled, and told it in the city, and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that was done. And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid. And they that saw it told them how it befell to him that was possessed with the devil, and also concerning the swine. And they began to pray him to depart out of their coasts.
— Mark 5:1-17

It’s a lengthy passage, I know, but you need to get a full view of the story to understand what’s going on here. Before I go any further, though, I want to share with you this humorous anecdote. When I was in college, one of my teachers was a preacher who was as full of humor as he was humility. One night, he preached a sermon in chapel on this passage in Mark. He titled the message, “The Nude Dude in Rude Mood.” I’ve never forgotten that, and his message title always comes to mind when I read through this passage.

Anyway, to get back on point, this poor man was possessed by many demons. The word “legion” implies thousands, so it’s safe to assume that’s how many demons were indwelling this individual. I cannot imagine the fear, torment, shame, and pain he faced daily. What a sad situation!

What’s even sadder is the way the townspeople dealt with him. Not knowing what else to do, they bound him with chains and left him alone in a graveyard. Creepy! But the man broke through the chains time after time, leaving him free to hurt himself and others.

After reading through this passage a few days ago, I wrote this in my journal: “I find it interesting that thousands of demons possessed the man. Talk about dividing the mind (which is the very definition of anxiety). No wonder he was anxious and depressed. Anxiety and depression do feel a bit like being demon possessed. The voices and feelings that pulse through our minds and bodies create havoc and captivity.  The maniac was enslaved more by what was happening within him than by what was happening without. Often the same is true for me. It’s my thoughts and attitudes that enslave me far more than my outward circumstances.”

Isn’t it amazing how God could use the story of a demoniac to help His child who tends to make mountains out of molehills? Think about it.  This man was shackled, but he quickly broke the chains. To my knowledge, there was no fencing or perimeter to keep him within the graveyard. Physically, he was free. But mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, he was a captive. Yes, he was imprisoned by what was dwelling within him.

I can relate. I blame my captivity on my health, financial struggles, or other outward circumstances, but the truth is, the thing that’s imprisoning me is my reaction toward these things. Circumstances are what they are, and often we can’t change that. We can, however, change how we deal with them and even how we view them. And in doing so, we break free from the chains of anxiety, depression, self-pity, and so much more.

What’s holding you captive today? Chances are it’s something within rather than your outward circumstances. Give it to God, and like the maniac, you can be free and in your right mind.

Whoa There, Thoughts!

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I mentioned to you a few days ago about how my thoughts were keeping me up at night. It’s like a vitamin commercial I saw a few days ago where this man walks into a dark room full of bright neon signs. The signs read all kinds of familiar thoughts, and one by one, the man turns off the lights. When he reaches the last—and only unlit—sign, he pulls the cord, and the words, “Nighty Night” light up. What a perfect picture of my nightly battle to calm my mind and get to sleep.

The trouble for me is that my mind not only spins at night; it turns all day long. I find it difficult to focus on the task at hand because my mind is already fretting about what comes next or if the next paycheck will arrive before the next bill or if scientists are going to discover that lettuce is fattening. You know, the usual. The psalmist who penned Psalm 94 understood the turmoil of various thoughts yet still found comfort and delight in the Lord.  

In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul.
— Psalm 94:19

The multitude of thoughts. Yep, I get that. Delight of the soul? Well, sometimes, but not typically when my thoughts are on a never-ending roller coaster. Weariness? Sure. Fatigue? Absolutely. Delight? Is that even possible?

It is, and I discovered the secret in my daily Bible reading yesterday. Well, I say it’s a secret, but the truth is, it’s in the Bible in full view of all who read it. Somehow, I’ve just missed the power of this verse until now. But now that I’ve seen it, this verse will join my ever-growing list of favorites.

Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established.
— Proverbs 16:3

As I read through Proverbs 16 yesterday, verse three jumped out at me. I read it again and again, then looked up the various words of the verse to gain their full meaning. I’m so glad I did!

The word “commit” means to roll (which is very similar to the word “cast” in I Peter 5:7). As Christian author, Lysa Terkeurst put it, “This may sound unusual, but consider this: we roll heavy things. We roll things we can’t carry. We roll things too awkward or burdensome to bear alone.” She’s right. To commit our works to the Lord means to roll them on Him and allow Him to carry them. We don’t have to.

The word “works” is no mystery. It refers to our actions, deeds, or paths. When we commit our works to the Lord, we’re essentially handing Him our calendars and to-do lists. We’re saying, “Lord, there is too much here for me to handle, so I’m giving it to you. Please lead me to do what You want me to do when You want me to do it, and please help me live in Your strength today. Thank you for reminding me I don’t have to face today or any other day on my own.”

We could stop right there and be blessed, but we haven’t even gotten to the best part. The verse says if we commit our works unto the Lord, our thoughts will be established. So, what exactly does that mean? I’m so glad you asked!

The word “established” is defined as “to be firm, stable, or fixed; to be prepared, arranged, or settled.” Oh, hallelujah! That’s what I want. I desire my thoughts to be stable, fixed on the Lord instead of my to-do list or my troubles. I would love for the Lord to prepare and arrange my thoughts instead of allowing every idea that pops into my head to have free rein. And did you notice the last word in the definition—settled? That’s my word for 2019. Coincidence? Definitely not!

No wonder the psalmist could say he found delight in the comfort of the Lord despite the multitude of thoughts within him! He’d discovered this “secret” as well. It would seem he had learned how to roll his problems, decisions, and worries onto the Lord thereby allowing God to direct, settle and stabilize his thoughts. And if he can do it, my friends, then we can too.

Are you seeking comfort today? Are your thoughts keeping you up at night and running you ragged during the day? If so, I invite you to roll those burdens onto the Lord. Better yet, He is encouraging you to do just that. The outcome is a lighter load and a brighter spirit. Who doesn’t want that, right?