The Abundance of the Heart

“The tree is known by its fruit. For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak.” Matthew 12:33-36

I have caught myself saying things I don’t want to say, in tone foreign to my desire–expressing impatience, frustration, even unkind words to counter another’s ideas or suggestions. It is true that my choice of words and my tone of voice are reflective of what is in my heart: I cannot harbor stubbornness, selfish intent, pride at my opinions and knowledge of what’s best, or superiority, and think that my ‘output’ will be clean, gracious, and life-giving.

Fruit at Albemarle Estate, Virginia

Jesus used the word “careless,” indicating the necessity of taking care of what I am allowing to take root, to grow (seen or unseen), to fester in my heart. Sometimes I let slip in a seemingly innocent- or justifiable- niggle of thought, and it takes off, popping up and out before I even recognize it is there. Did I even give it oxygen? I must be vigilant, and diligent, to tend my heart if I expect my words to bring “encouragement, upbuilding, and consolation.” How can I expect to speak sound words, good news of happiness, peace and salvation, if I am not filled with words of life and light and truth? (1 Corinthians 14:3; 2 Timothy 1:13; Isaiah 52:7)

“No human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.” James 3:8-12

O God, purify me through and through! Help me to guard my heart; it is the wellspring of my life. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight. (Proverbs 4:32; Psalm 19:14)

 


The Glory of Behind

“Who is this who comes, who is splendid in apparel, marching in the greatness of his strength? It is I, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save.” Isaiah 63:1

I usually face east early, eager to see the sun’s rising on the new day. This morning I went into my study, whose northwest window soon distracted me with a rose pink blotch of magnificent light. I went to investigate, and while the eastern sky was colorless, plain, the show in it’s opposite sky was spectacular–glorious light playing up billowy clouds over the Gulf, under a suspended moon.

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Sometimes our day to day is ordinary; growth is gradual, and little seems to change. But when we look back, and consider where we were, we see the glory of maturing God has wrought, the splendor of His saving, sanctifying work in our lives or that of others. In our living, He calls us forward, but it is helpful to look over our shoulders and consider where we came from, to remember the past, attitudes and affections that have been transformed. It is often in doing so that we best trace His faithfulness, His glorious craft in our lives.

I will recount the steadfast love of the Lordthe praises of the Lordaccording to all that the Lord has granted us, and the great goodness that he has granted according to his compassion, according to the abundance of his steadfast love. For he said, ‘Surely they are my people.’ And he became their Savior.” “Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’ The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad.” Isaiah 63:7-8; Psalm 126:2-3

Thank you, Father, for the beauty revealed in the backside of our lives, for perspective You give and for Your steady, constant work in us and those we love. Remind us where we were, that we might more deeply rejoice in Whose we are and what You have done.

Healed to Serve

“And when Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying sick with a fever. He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and began to serve him.” Matthew 8:14-15

A friend is doing the brave, hard work of rebuilding a broken marriage. Having laid down her life for the one to whom she’d vowed, she is being healed and their union restored. One of the things I marvel at most is her desire to help others do the same–be healed by Jesus to serve Him. Like Peter’s mother-in-law, she acknowledges her life is not hers alone, and as a steward of rebirth, she cannot help but give back to Jehovah Rapha, her Healer.

Whatever the illness has been, the besetting sin habit, misplaced affections, relationships tainted by selfish motivation or bitter grudges or favoritism or manipulation, God can heal. And when He heals, He gives new purpose. You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

“When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all!”                                                                                               Isaac Watts, 1707

Come, Great Physician, touch and heal me from all that prevents me from fully living. Lift the fever of fear, sloth, pride, self-righteousness, worry, and free me to serve wholeheartedly, as unto You. May my every moment be spent for You, in any way You intend.

Song of Ascents

Hiking in the mountains is energizing. It takes attention to follow the path, to keep steady on damp tangled roots and rocks covered in moss, to find dry and stable footing at every climb. The paths through filtered light are breathtaking, the stream crossings and vertical climbs invigorating, and every vista lifts the spirit to contemplate God’s grandeur.

“I lift up my eyes to the hills.
    From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved;
    he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
    the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all evil;
    he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
    your going out and your coming in
    from this time forth and forevermore.”   Psalm 121

 

This “song of ascents” causes several. As I lift my eyes from the scrabble and slippery bumps of my stirrings, quandaries, concerns, I see the Lord Who made all. He is creative and strong. When I consider His help, how He orders my steps, and guards, and revives, my heart ascends in gratitude and dependence. When I know that I know that He keeps me, keeps my life from evil, and my going out and my coming in, my hands raise up in worship and surrender to Him. As I ascend in these ways, the view of Him is broadened, magnified, expanding my soul in love and praise.

Lord on High, vigilant Guard and Guide, lift me ever higher, even as I live and love and serve here in the lowlands.

 

 

 

The Scarlet Cord

“By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.” Hebrews 11:31

I admire Rahab’s faith. Joshua 2 tells she was a prostitute, her house in the wall of Jericho, who received two Israelite spies who came to view the land. She hid the men from pursuing authorities under stalks of flax on her roof, saying, “I know the LORD has given you the land.” She had heard accounts of God’s mighty deliverances and victories for Israel, and they awakened bold faith in Israel’s covenant God. “The LORD you God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.” She bravely asked that they guarantee when they returned to take the land that they spare her father’s whole family.

They agreed: she keep quiet about their reconnaissance mission, and they would deal kindly and faithfully with her and all she gathered in her house. When they returned, she must tie a scarlet cord in the window through which she let them escape. They parted, according to her plan that they hide in the hills until their pursuers returned to the city, “and she tied the scarlet cord in the window.” She not only kept her end of the oath, but in expectant faith prepared for their attack immediately.

And her faith influenced the spies’ confidence! They returned to Joshua, reporting, “Truly the Lord has given all the land into our hands. And also, all the inhabitants of the land melt away because of us.”

How expectant am I that God is Who He says He is, and will do what He says He will do? What scarlet cords of confident faith do I tie to my prayers, my plans, my involvements, my acts of service? How does my trust in “the God of the heavens and the earth” influence that of those I encounter? Rehab’s faith was active and evidenced by her works when “she received the messengers and sent them out by another way.” (James 2:17-18,22,25)

O Lord, “I believe, help my unbelief!” The scarlet of Your blood has won my deliverance. May I tie a cord as a reminder of Your faithfulness on each decision of my days: You saved me, I live by Your mercy, I live for You. (Mark 9:24)

Sated with Favor 

Deuteronomy 33 and 34 describe Moses’ final moments. “Eyes undimmed and vigor unabated,” he pronounces benediction on the tribes of Israel that leave them “sated with favor, and full of the blessing of the LORD. He loved his people.”

“The beloved of the LORD dwell in safety. The High God surrounds him all day long and dwells between his shoulders.” “As your days, so shall your strength be.” “There is none like God, who rides through the heavens to your help, through the skies in his majesty. The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He thrust out the enemy before you and said, ‘Destroy.’ So Israel lived in safety, Jacob lived alone, in a land of grain and wine, whose heavens drop down dew. Happy are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lordthe shield of your help, and the sword of your triumph!

Could Moses have finished any better? Could he have left a greater legacy than that of pronouncing God’s blessing on His people? The one whom the LORD knew face to face,“ outstanding among prophets, mighty in power, arrived at the end of the days God had ordained for him, and spent them giving life, hope, and promise to others.

Do I take for granted daily strength and safety, God’s nearness, the guiding of thought and feet? Am I still enough to be aware of God’s intimate involvement with me? All favor is from the hand and heart of God, Who loves His people. When I part from loved ones, do I pronounce these blessings on them?

Lord, in the days You have allotted me, use my life as a benediction, the words of my mouth to bestow Your gracious blessings on others. May those whose lives I touch be helped, comforted, encouraged to know and honor You.

Rock of Life, Rock of Justice

“The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness, just and upright is he. Their rock is not as our Rock.” Deuteronomy 32:4,31

Moses understood rocks. The LORD had just told him the day was approaching when he would die on Mount Nebo, after looking over at the land of Canaan to which he had led God’s people for 40 years. Much earlier, when the Israelites had whined of thirst at Horeb, God had instructed Moses to strike the rock, which then gushed water to slake it. That rock was life-giving. “They drank from the the spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.” 

But later the LORD instructed him to speak to the rock for water, and in his frustration with Israel’s constant complaining, Moses struck it instead. By ‘not regarding God as holy,’ Moses was refused entrance into the Promised Land. In that case, it was a rock of judgment. (Deuteronomy 32:49; Exodus 17:6; 1 Corinthians 10:4; Numbers 20:2-13)

Highlands overlook 2

In Jesus, living water meets justice. He who offered the water of life to the woman at the well was the Rock Who was struck for us to satisfy us forever; “by his wounds we are healed.” (John 4; Matthew 26:67; 27:30; Isaiah 53:5)

Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee. There is no Rock like you.  Ever lead me to the Rock Who is higher than I. (1 Samuel 2:2; Psalm 61:2)