What Are You Telling Your Heart?

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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!

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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!

Sailing the Seven C's - Cheer Up the Brethren

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And when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was then taken away. But after long abstinence Paul stood forth in the midst of them, and said, Sirs, ye should have hearkened unto me, and not have loosed from Crete, and to have gained this harm and loss. And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man’s life among you, but of the ship.
— Acts 27:20-22

It’s one thing to encourage a fellow Christian who’s going through a storm. It’s quite another thing when you’re going through the same storm. In this passage in Acts, it’s imperative to remember that Paul was not on the shore, shouting out to those being tossed about in the ship as the storm raged around them. He wasn’t speaking to them from safety. He was on the same ship, being tossed about by the same waves. He knew exactly what they were going through—the terror, the heaving of their stomachs as the ship rose and dropped beneath them, the despair. Paul knew, but, he also understood that sometimes the best way to encourage oneself is to encourage others.

Logically, it makes little sense. How can we encourage others when we’re so discouraged ourselves? It sounds so strange, so foreign, yet it’s been proven time and time again. Read any book on depression and you’ll see advice to reach out to others in the form of help and encouragement. Deliver meals to the elderly. Bake cookies for a child in need of cheer. Yes, God designed us in such a way that we receive encouragement when we seek to give it.

Despite the raging seas and the threatening storm, Paul urged his fellow shipmates, “Be of good cheer.” He sought to take away their fears, to renew their hope, and that, my friends is what we need to do as well. As I went down my prayer list this morning, I shook my head and said, “Lord, it seems like now more than ever, everybody is going through something!” Name after name. Trial after trial. I could pray all day long and never reach the end of my list. So many are facing terrible storms, but what are we doing to help them? Are we striving to encourage them, to lift them up beyond their despair, or are we so engrossed in our own storm that we’ve lost sight of all those who are suffering alongside us?

And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
— Hebrews 10:24-25

These verses are often quoted regarding church attendance, but I think their meaning goes far beyond that. Look at the first phrase: Let us consider one another. Let’s think about someone other than ourselves. Let’s look for ways to help others instead of being consumed with our own happiness. Consider others and provoke them to love and good works. Urge them to step out of their funk and help someone else. Soon, everyone is helping someone, and no one is sitting alone in despair, which brings us to the next part of the passage: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together. We need each other. Iron sharpens iron. When facing a storm, the last thing we should do is seclude ourselves. We need to reach out. Reach out for help and reach out to help. Reach out to get encouraged and reach out to give encouragement. And then, notice that little phrase near the end: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. We need to follow this step now more than ever. The world is getting darker. The nights are growing longer. More Christians are losing hope day by day. Now, more than ever, we need to be reaching out to those in a storm and assuring them, “Be of good cheer.”

Oddly enough, when we seek to encourage others, we come away from the experience more hopeful and less anxious. There’s something about speaking the truths we know with conviction to someone in need and hearing those truths come out of our mouths that help us to solidify our faith. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve given spiritual advice or counsel to someone and felt the Lord urging my heart to listen and trust what I was saying. I had the answers. The encouragement was within me. I only had to give it to another before I could access it for myself.

Perhaps you’re going through a storm today, and you feel it’s all you can do to hang on for dear life. Maybe you’re reading this and thinking, Yes, it would be nice if someone would reach out to encourage me for a change, but I’m always the encourager. Everyone counts on me. Or perhaps you’re so storm-tossed that you don’t even know how to reach out to someone else because you can’t remember the truth of God’s Word anymore. Whatever the case, there is hope. The situation may be beyond your control, but nothing, and I mean NOTHING is beyond God’s control. He can speak to the storm, or He can speak peace to your soul. Either way, He will get you through this. But if you have to endure the storm anyway, why not cheer up a few friends along the way? Who knows? Your act of kindness could be the very thing that changes their situation or gives them the strength to face their storm, and in turn, they may continue the cycle by encouraging someone else. The circle of hope and cheer could begin with you. To whom will you reach out today?