Cleansing Your Heart

Matthew 15

 

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In Matthew 15, Jesus is very critical of the religious leaders during his time, which were among the group called the Pharisees. In verses 1-14, the Pharisees had criticized Jesus and his disciples for not following their traditions about “washing their hands” before they ate, as if it was a salvation issue for them. Now, it is definitely a good idea to wash your hands before you eat; in fact, I definitely recommend doing so. However, when we make such small matters an issue for the salvation of others, it becomes a problem.

 

Jesus goes on to tell them that it is the things that come out of our hearts that affect our salvation, not merely the things that we put into our bodies in verse 15-20. You see, God is more concerned about our hearts than he is with our religious duties. Praying and worshiping before God is good, but if it isn’t done with the right motives, it does not profit you at all. We need to develop a heart within ourselves that is truly committed to our God. 1 Samuel 16:7 says that “man looks at the outward appearance, but YHWH (God) looks at the heart.”

 

Jesus tells us that we can know whether our hearts are good or corrupt by what they are producing in our life. If you are producing evil thoughts, hatred, sexual immoralities, lies, and more, then you need to have a change of heart. However, if you have a good heart that is led by the Holy Spirit, you will produce these things: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

 

A good biblical example for us to follow would be that of King David. If you know the story of King David from 1 and 2 Samuel, God calls him a “man after His own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14). What a compliment from the Creator of the universe! Wouldn’t you like to be described by God in this way? You see, David was concerned with the things of God and longed to worship Him. His whole heart was devoted to making his God pleased.

 

I encourage you today to look at your life and ask yourself, “What am I producing?” If you are lacking in some area in your life, repent and start making a change. Although King David was a highly spiritual man, he also fell deep into sin, just like we all do. If that is your situation today, I encourage you to pray to God the same words that David prayed in Psalm 51:

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit.”

 

-Talon Paul

What Do the Stars Tell You?

Psalm 19

 

I have always been amazed at God’s creation here on earth.  The beauty.  The creativity.  The grandeur. In fact, I have always wondered a little bit about the the new heaven and new earth that Revelation 21 records will herald the new Kingdom of God.  Could God really create something more majestic than what we have already seen?  Is there a chance that the new heaven and earth will be a little bit of a let-down?  I am after all a tad attached to what we have here and now.

And then, I saw pictures of Jupiter!  They are breathtaking!  NASA’s space probe Juno has been on a carefully routed 5 year trip to reach Jupiter – and in August 2017 Juno sent back to Earth stunning pictures of the planet it is now orbiting.  Here are just two pictures … many more can be found at https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/juno/images/index.html

jupiter swirling south pole            jupiter south pole from Juno

 

 

 

 

 

And all of a sudden, I am again in awe of Him and His creations.  And I know I can trust Him.  I can trust Him to create a spectacular new heaven and earth and I can trust Him today with my life.   There is so much He knows that I do not.  There is so much power that He has that I do not.  He is a great Big God and sometimes I forget how much I need Him because I think for just a few minutes that I have this world figured out.  And then my mind is once again blown away by how many stars there are and the new-found beauty of a planet we are just beginning to really discover.

David says it well in Psalm 19.  “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.  There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.  Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” (Psalm 19:1-4).  God’s masterpiece speaks for Him.  His works of art tell us about the artist.

In the New Testament Paul writes similar words to the believers in Rome.  This city was proud of what they considered their superior culture, amazing architecture and roadways (some of which can still be seen today), and numerous temples to foreign gods (amongst them, Jupiter and Juno).   In many ways it was not too unlike our society today.  Paul writes to the church in Rome: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20).  His artwork proves the power and majesty of the artist.

And yet, as we well know there are those who prefer to be blind and create their own explanations for the intricate and beautiful creation.  Interestingly, not one but two psalms begin with these words: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.'” (Psalm 14:1 and 53:1).   You get to decide which camp you will set your tent in, but there will be a day when everyone will acknowledge God (Romans 14:10-12).

This brings us back to the rest of Psalm 19 which you can read or listen to here –  (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+19&version=NIV).

The first six verses of Psalm 19 speaks of God’s magnificent creation and how it points to God.  The next 5 verses give us a little foretaste of Psalm 119 which we talked about yesterday: the superiority and importance of God’s Word and commands.  “By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.” (Psalm 19:11).  And the final three verses emphasize watching my own actions, attitudes, words, and thoughts to see that they are in line with God’s laws and desires for his children – and seeking forgiveness and change when they are not.  I love the final verse of the Psalm as much as the opening verse: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14).

We serve an awesome Creator God who has provided a detailed guidebook for our lives and a brilliant plan for the future  – which will include everyone acknowledging him.  May we always strive to be pleasing in his sight.

Marcia Railton

(Stars photographed by Chris Mattison – thanks for sharing!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Warning: Lethal Wound

Psalm 38

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I am afraid we have an ugly topic to talk about today.  It’s no fun, but it has to be done.  It is more fun to talk about sunshine, knitting and fruit salad (see the last two days’ posts).  But when we don’t talk about this topic and acknowledge it and be on the defensive against it, it has a way of festering, oozing out of control and taking over by force – consuming ourself and others in its path of destruction.

I am talking about sin.  One verse toward the end of yesterday’s psalm about trials points to the seriousness of sin: “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” (Psalm 66:18) .  Ouch.  The All-Powerful God who loves and cares for me will not hear my prayers, my petitions, or even my praise if my sin is creating a sound-proof barrier between me and Him.  His holiness will not allow it.  Sin is serious and must be dealt with in order for me to be heard by God.

King David was a man who knew a thing or two about the devastating effects of sin.  In Psalm 38 he describes many consequences of sin: God’s anger and discipline, ill health, overwhelming guilt, searing pain, severe depression, social isolation, increased enemies, and confusion.  What other consequences can you find in this psalm?  He states, “My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly.” (Psalm 38:5).

The thing is…”sinful folly” sounds just a wee bit fun, doesn’t it??  Maybe it’s a glance at pornography, experimenting with friends doing drugs or alcohol, speeding recklessly down the interstate with some great tunes cranking out, making out with your significant other, or getting a good laugh out of the lunch crew when you share a great put-down.  It’s a little exhilarating – for a time.  And that’s the trouble with sin.  It can start by seeming like no big deal.  I highly doubt that King David woke up one morning and said, “This is the day.  I am going to go watch a woman bathe, and then commit adultery and that will lead to deception, murder, the death of my child, a plaque of violence on my family, and ….   No one plans to be sucked into a downward spiral of sin, deceit and pain.  Rather, it begins with small acts of selfishness – thinking of my own pleasure over and above what is right, pleasing to God and helpful to others.  And then the demon of pride enters and says we can handle this burning coal and we won’t get burned.  So, we say yes to that little urge of ‘sinful folly’.

Before we know it, we are facing festering wounds and a forest fire.  And the good-feeling exhilaration is long gone.  In it’s place is only pain, isolation, depression, guilt and confusion.

Sadly, this is not true for only adulterous murderers.  It is the same for me.  It is the same for you.  It is the same for the most saintly person you know.  In the New Testament James gives the same warning David does: “But each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.  Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” (James 1:14-15).  Sin is a big deal, and not just for the sinner, but for so many others who will be affected.

I was looking for a great picture of gangrene to open this devotion.  They were much worse than I had anticipated (as is the case with sin) so I will not include an actual visual.  But, imagine, blackened decaying flesh surrounded by raw, oozing, pain.  Death has set in – even while the rest of the body lives.  Sin, left unchecked and allowed to grow, is like this extreme infection.  It leads to death most certainly – if not treated.  Sin, too, must be treated, and the earlier the better.  Psalm 38:18 shares the first important step to restoration: “I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin.”  Tear down the sound-proof barrier your sins have built up between you and God.  Cry out to him in confession.  Thank God for the gift of His Son Jesus Christ who died so we might be forgiven when we come to the Father with a repentant heart, ready to be obedient in turning from our sins and seeking to live a holy life.

Even gangrene can be healed.  It requires hard dirty work (sometimes even using amputation or maggots) – a process of cutting out and destroying the old which causes death.  Maybe a friend who is a bad influence needs to be cut out, or maybe it’s a TV channel or social media.  And, then a lot of antibiotics and sometimes lifestyle changes are needed to return to health. God’s Word, prayer, a church body and healthy habits are great antibiotics for a repentant sinner.

Remember our memory verse for this week from Psalm 139:24 – “See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  Sin is serious – even when it starts small.  Don’t let sins fester.  Pray for conviction where conviction is due, and healing and restoration where that is needed.  And seek out the everlasting way.

-Marcia Railton

 

 

 

 

 

Resolutions

Psalms 76-78

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January 7, 2017

This week we celebrated the New Year and often people make a New Year’s resolution. Some common resolutions are to lose weight, go to the gym or exercise more, and to eat better. People focus on things that will make them feel better or improve themselves. And some people resolve to read their Bible more and improve their relationship with God. These are all good; however, most people give up within a month and go back to their old ways.

Ps 76:11 “Make vows to the Lord your God and fulfill them; let all the neighboring lands bring gifts to the One to be feared.”

                  In Psalm 78, David retells the story of the Israelites. He recounts the many times they called to God to help them and He answered. David also tells of all the times they turned their back on God. They chose to turn away to the easy path, the gods of the foreign lands. Is this how you will approach a vow with God? Stay close when the need is great and depend less when all is good? Just like with resolutions, having setbacks aren’t permanent. The only failure that is permanent is the failure to start again!

-Susan Johnson

 

(Photo credit: http://alifequest.net/AW82.htm)

What Does This History Have to do with ME? (2 Samuel 21-22)

Tuesday, October 24

By Sherry Alcumbrack

As we are reading through the Old Testament, we are seeing wonderful stories of the patriarchs of our faith and the history of the Israelites. I love history, so to me it’s fascinating, but it’s not just history. We need to read it with an eye toward, thinking about how this affects us in our lives today. In every chapter it speaks to characters that will help us develop into godly people that will impact the world around us.

In Chapter 21, life for the Jewish people follows a similar pattern. While King David is leading them, God continues to be them. But not all is hunky dory. The Philistines still really hate them and would like nothing better than to annihilate them. They have to go up to battle them 3 times. They even kill Goliath’s brother and other members of the family, one was a giant with 6 fingers on each hand and 6 toes on each foot (24 in all)…ewww!!! But they defeated them in every battle. When we pray for a miracle and God answers our prayers, how do we act? King David knows how to be thankful. Chapter 22 is a beautiful song of praise for God.

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What are some characteristics of a rock or fortress? They are solid, unmovable, and unshakeable. These are some of the characteristics of God and we can confidently place our trust in him.

King David went through a lot of things in his life with King Saul trying to kill him, many battles with the enemies of Israel, and even his son trying to kill him. He looked to God to be his protector, his hiding place. Verse 7 says, “In my distress I called upon the Lord and cried out to my God.” We need to realize that God is our only hope as we go through the different struggles in our lives.

The creator of the universe, the one who created thunder, lightning, the sea, and the foundations of the world is our defender. King David tells us who his deliverer was in verses 17-20, he did not try to take any of the glory. He said, “He is my support and He delivered me because He delighted in me.” We need to realize that God delights in giving us his help and shelter during our storms. He is there for us just as he was there to help King David. He tells why God delights in him; because he kept the ways of the Lord, he did not depart from God, he kept His judgements before him, and did not depart from His statutes. But verse 23 is key. “Therefore the Lord has recompensed me according to my righteousness, According to my cleanness in His eyes.” Like I said yesterday, once God forgives you, you are forgiven. We can be thankful that when he looks at us he doesn’t see the sins we have committed in our lives, he sees his son Jesus who was sinless.

God’s way is perfect, the word of the Lord is proven. He is a shield to those who trust in Him.

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