Hidden Heart

Have you watched the TV adverts which show how to be better, bigger, lovelier, softer, stronger, happier, etc etc…? They all have one thing in common. To be liked and loved, you need to change, and we are here to take your money and help you. So we are sold an image of a bodybuilder, a youthful looking 70 year old, happy, smiling holiday times, contented spouses, and again the list could go on. Each one depends on a change to the outer you. That part which others see. The superficial. So, does a change to the outside make a corresponding change on the inside? I fear not! Are we so stupid? Apparently we are, because the sales of these products increase every year.

 

The world is good, and getting better at convincing us that the answer to all our problems is a pill, potion, lotion, some makeup, or a work out. Surely we are not that gullible? Can we not see through the commercial sham? On the other hand, what if the change came from the inside? Would that make a corresponding difference to our outward appearance at no cost? Absolutely yes, and with 100% certainty! Ask yourself, who would I want to  spend the rest of my life with, a good looker or a good heart? Case closed. Once again, the Bible is not silent.

 

For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. Proverbs 23:7
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of … all uncleanness. Matthew 23:27

Myopic

Jesus said to him, “Do you believe this just because I said I saw you under the fig tree? You will see much greater things than that!” John 1:50 ERV

 

We can’t always see the big picture, and so we settle for a small vision. We are short sighted, and Jesus’ words tell a story that applies to us today too. Jesus was calling Nathaniel to follow Him, and it appears from the text that Nathaniel believed because Jesus saw him under a fig tree from far away. That was enough to settle it for this disciple, but Jesus’ promise to Nathaniel that he “will see much greater things than that” is one for us to grasp too.

 

When we strain to see things too closely, we lose the ability to pull back and therefore lose context. Guilty? I think we all are at times. We become content in our little shells, going to church, singing the songs, praying and can miss the significance of our salvation through grace. We are greater than the sum of our parts.

 

It’s not the going to church, singing, or praying that saves us. These things are just the outflowing of a full heart of thankful worship for eternal life. While we journey through this life, we have fullness of joy. We may not always be happy because tough times hit us just like other people, but joy is different. In fact we are reminded that it is our strength to get us through the hard times when it can be difficult to smile.

 

And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10 ESV

Failure?

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

Isaiah 26:3

 

My granddaughter is taking driving lessons, and doing very well. Recently, we sat and went through some driving theory questions together and I failed. Twice! As an older, more mature driver, I thought I would complete the online test with a clear 100% pass. How wrong could I be?

 

When I passed my test some 50 years ago, things were easier. I read and learned all the Highway Code at that time, but it seems that the rules would not allow me to pass today. Ouch. You would think that once you have committed to something, and set your mind to it, and succeeded, that would be it for ever. Not in the secular things of this life it seems, and certainly not for our driving test.

 

How glad I am that our God does not operate that way with us, or our salvation. Once we repent and hand over the reins of our life to our Saviour, He does just that. He saves. For ever. We don’t have to prove ourselves all over again because He will keep our minds in perfect peace. Did you catch the little word ‘keep’? To make sure we get the message, the apostle Paul gives Timothy (and therefore us) the following assurance which keeps our hearts, minds, and souls for eternity. We serve a great God, but there is a small condition. We must keep our mind stayed on Him. Now, is that such a difficult thing to do, when we consider the reward?

 

But I am not ashamed, because I know the one I have put my trust in. And I am sure that he is able to protect what I have put into his care until that Day. 2 Timothy 1:12

But…

Like everyone else in the world, we deserved to suffer God’s anger just because of the way we were. But God is rich in mercy, and he loved us very much. We were spiritually dead because of all we had done against him. But he gave us new life together with Christ. (You have been saved by God’s grace.) Ephesians 2:3-5 (ERV)

 

As a parent, hearing the words “but Dad” sent a shiver down my spine because I never knew what was coming next. It would usually have something to do with not liking what they were asked or expected to do. Human nature comes to the fore, and we show our displeasure with that single word “but”. The word is basically a very negative expression isn’t it?

 

I love the “but God” verses in the Bible, and this is just one of many. It simply means “in spite of”. In our case we are “like everyone else in the world, and deserve God’s anger”. But in spite of that, and because we “have been saved by God’s grace” He gave us new life! What a great God!

 

The question that often comes to me is this: Since this salvation is so freely available to all, why do more people not take God at His word and accept His gift? We must be a very headstrong and stubborn people to refuse God’s free grace. I can’t think of any other reason, can you?

Night Time

Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30:5

 

How long does your night last? In some cases it can endure for a very long time. In one sense this Psalm refers to a painful single physical night time, followed by the dawning of a new day which rises and brings relief, and even happiness. I can see another interpretation. Your night of weeping may have lasted a long time, with no sign of relief. You have prayed earnestly and with tears for a loved one, but it is still night in your heart, and theirs too.

 

I can hear the heartache of a weary one saying, when will it be morning? When will the sun rise and bring me relief and this promised joy? My night time has gone on for too long God. Please make it stop! This period of darkness may be due to your, or another person’s, health either physical or spiritual. It may be the uncertainty of making ends meet and as basic as putting food on the table for family. It may be the death of a very dearly loved parent, spouse or sibling and the light may have gone completely. When will I feel the warmth of the dawn?

 

Two things are certain in this verse. The night time and the morning dawn. We are assured that as certain as there is a long night time of weeping pain, there will be a morning sunrise of joy! David knew this more than most, but he was still able to see through the bleak darkness to the certainty of the coming joy. However long your and my night time lasts, let us hold fast to the assurance of the coming sunrise. It’s not a matter of ‘if’, but a matter of ‘when’!

Luggage

Accept my teaching. Learn from me. I am gentle and humble in spirit. And you will be able to get some rest. Yes, the teaching that I ask you to accept is easy. The load I give you to carry is light. Matthew 11:29,30 ERV

 

When going on a flight, if you are like me, you will decide early on that you will travel light, and well within the allowable baggage limit. You start well, and are convinced you will manage the impossible. Have you ever managed to get your suitcase under the limit on the first attempt? Me neither! I am wrongly convinced that I know my limits, but how wrong can you be? The truth is we don’t know our limits very well, and that goes for many areas of life.

 

We have a friend and wise Master who knows exactly how much we can carry in our ‘suitcase’ and He doesn’t let us become overweight. We carry the burdens of guilt, remorse, fear, unforgiveness, hatred, resentment, and the list could go on. We think we know our ‘limit’ but we are not good at knowing when enough is enough, and when to shut that case. I like the way Paul puts it, and we can take this to the bank!

 

The only temptations that you have are the same temptations that all people have. But you can trust God. He will not let you be tempted more than you can bear. But when you are tempted, God will also give you a way to escape that temptation. Then you will be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 ERV

How Close?

It’s a game some Christians play all the time, and although the rules can change from person to person, it goes something like this. I want you to think I am a good person, and even a Christian, but I don’t want my friends to think I am so different from them. Basically, I don’t want to look or sound weird to them.

 

I can make an effort to dress like them, with provocative clothing. This would apply more to the ladies, and shows itself in lower necklines and shorter skirts. The lower and shorter the better you play the game.

 

Or..We might want to talk like them in everyday conversation by using words and language which go close to the bare bone. Some will even use words which rhyme with and sound like you are using a swear word, but the good thing is, you are not. You get very close but don’t cross the actual line. The more you can sound like the unsaved, the better you play the game.

 

Or…We would never read the same secular, racy magazines, but we will be seen to know about similar reading material, all in the quest to look like them. You know, just human. Yet another way to play the game to better effect.

 

Or…It is so easy  to use the internet to see what they are watching, just for research purposes you understand. And anyway, who will know what level of ‘racy’ or ‘adult’ material you happen to come across in your desire to be like them. It can also give you common ground for striking up a conversation. Not a Christian one of course, but who knows it might lead there eventually. A way to get your information without being caught in a compromising situation which would be difficult to defend. You are playing the game really well with this little sleight of hand.

 

Or…When we mix in the same company, no matter where, we show them that although we are a Christian, we can go to the same places as them, and no one will bat an eyelid. The more we behave like the ‘regulars’, the better we play the game. And we can do that so convincingly. So we go to church, but also go to the pub and/or club. By now, we have pretty much mastered the game, and feel very comfortable. We can so easily defend ourselves by saying that Jesus sat with sinners, unlike the Pharisees who knew what their Bible said but had no love. We are only trying to be like Jesus, right?

 

Of course the ways to play the game differ, but the aim is always the same. To make it look to our Christian friends that we are in fact Christians, while at the same time, making it look to our unsaved friends that we are human, just like them. My only concern is how could we be a convincing witness for our unsaved friends to want to be a Christian when there is so little difference?

 

Let me leave this thought with you. There are other Christians who do not play this game, and have no need or desire to walk so close to the cliff edge. What effect do you think it has on them, particularly the younger ones in the faith? Would they be in danger of falling over the edge of the cliff? The cliff edge that you have so carefully tried to avoid? Other lives do matter, both the saved and the unsaved, so why play games which do not help either, and only serve to play to our own ego?

 

When I reach heaven, I want to be greeted with “Well done, good and faithful servant”, not “Well you cut that close”. How about you?