articles written by Joyce Jamerson
Devoted to...? Devoted Hearts
- A Compassionate
- A Question of Trust
- A Trusting Heart
- A Clean Heart
- A Forgiving Heart
- Hearts of Courage
Hopelessly devoted to ...?
Think back to the time of love letters. These days with texting, e-mail and
numerous other ways to stay connected; I wonder if love letters will become
extinct. With my memories of waiting anxiously for the mail to run is a phrase my grandmother would quote to me:
“There is nothing quite so empty
as a mailbox full of air,
when the letter you expected simply isn’t – isn’t there.”
When your heart is devoted to someone, you expect to
hear from them and they expect to hear from you. When that letter did come, how many times was it read? If you’re like
me, that letter would be treasured and re-read many times over and kept in a special place.
We might define devotion as deep
love and commitment; being earnest or sincere. This profound dedication can be to jobs, husbands and children, special friends
or to God. Ezra’s heart was devoted to God. He was decidedly earnest and sincere. He had “devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the LORD, and to
teaching its decrees and laws in Israel,” Ezra 7:10, NIV. Other versions say he set his heart or prepared his heart. Study, observe (practice) and teach. In other words,
he totally absorbed himself in all things pertaining to the law and to teaching it to Israel. The wise writer of Proverbs says, “In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct
your path,” 3:6 NKJV.
Our devotion cannot be to God and
to the world at the same time, Matthew 6:24. Others have tried and failed miserably. Solomon started well and even charged
the people to "Let your heart therefore
be wholly devoted to the LORD our God, to walk in His statutes and to keep His commandments, as at this day," 1 Kings 8:61, NASV. He was dedicated; had the people behind him and finished
building the house of the Lord. “All
the earth was seeking the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom which God had put in his heart,” 1 Kings 10:24. You would think a man of that stature who had it all would have no problem
reaching and keeping his goals. What a leader! Oh yes, then there’s that warning about taking heed lest you fall, 1
Corinthians 10:12. He did manage to keep one foot in the world.
“As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and
his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been,” 1 Kings 11:4, NIV.
And of course, influence does trickle down. Hearts were not fully devoted and Israel, just as God had warned, would
suffer the consequences. Speaking of Abijam, Rehoboam’s son and Solomon’s grandson: “He walked in all the sins of his father which he had committed before him;
and his heart was not wholly devoted to the LORD his God, like the heart of his father David,” 1 Kings 15:3-4.
Something happened along the way. If we understand anything from these Scriptures, it’s that
good intentions with set goals are a step in the right direction, but constant attention must be given to spiritual goals
or we will fail at that which we most desire. Think how history could have changed had Solomon been steady in his devotion
to God. Think how our own story could have changed if we had made different choices (either for good or for bad). “If
only.” Two tiny words with big impact. Have poor choices been a part of our past? How can we make better ones? We can schedule daily devotionals, give time to prayer,
be at every scheduled service of the church, take sermon notes, do good works and still not have a devoted heart. Our lives are to be
hidden in Christ, Colossians 3:3.
Do we think we’d like to be more spiritual but we don’t want to “run it in the
ground?” When we’re dating, spirituality takes a back seat because we “don’t want to turn them off.” Then
when marriage comes, we wonder why our spouses won’t be spiritual leaders! There was no indication that a spiritual
leader was wanted! We want to know Jesus on our terms - to have just a little bit of God – enough to make us feel good
but not enough to get in our way; don’t want to be called
a Bible beater for sure. Why do
we settle for so little? Perhaps because we know so little? Do we really know God and how devoted He has been to us? How He longs for us to be His children? His plan
for us? It’s considered fashionable these days to investigate other gods; have to be politically correct, you know.
Paul perceived the Athenians were very religious because they built a shrine to so many, including the unknown god –
just in case they should forget one. What confusion! We see some of the same today. Devotion is to the latest craze. “This week, I think I’ll
be a Buddist and next week I’ll try Islam.” Where is true devotion? To a true and living God? How can devotion be to a piece of wood? Or a bronze
statue? Can it redeem us? Save us? (In chapter 44, Isaiah gives a vivid description of those who carve a god from wood that our sovereign
God gave rain to grow.)
As Paul was teaching, the Athenians soon learned about the
one and only God, Acts 17. This God made the world and all things in it. This God is Lord of heaven and earth. This God does not dwell
in temples made with hands. This God gives life and breath to all things.
We are the offspring of this God. “Being
then the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by
the art and thought of man,” verse 29. This God is One to whom we would want to be
Listen to Paul as he describes Jesus to the Colossians:
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things
were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities
— all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come
to have first place in everything. For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through
Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things
on earth or things in heaven,” Colossians 1:15-20.
What does the fullness of God look like? It looks like Jesus! If we want to
be filled up with the fullness of God, understand the depth of His love, know that He is willing and able to bless us beyond
all that we could ever ask or think (Ephesians 3:19,20), why would we not want to be devoted to such a One? Hopelessly devoted.
That’s just it! We’re not
hopelessly devoted! Devoted but not hopeless! We abound with hope! Even though the words of John Farrar’s song, sung by Olivia Newton-John song
may still ring in our minds, our devotion to Jesus provides the greatest hope that has ever been offered. Jesus is our hope (1 Timothy 1:1; 4:10), sent straight from the heart of God.
Does our devotion measure up? Do we read His letter often?
look into our hearts.
A Compassionate Heart
ago, while watching an episode of “Chopped” on FoodTV, there was a surprise ending. In this program, four chefs compete for a prize of $10,000 and the
last two chefs were competing during the last round – the dessert round. Each had an impressive dessert, so the contest
would be very close. The dishes from each round are evaluated for each chef and a decision is made. The chefs usually reveal
plans for how they would spend their prize; a goal to further their business in some way or a special trip of some kind. Obviously,
they have already dreamed about how the prize should be spent. One contestant, hoping for the reward, urgently needed to visit
her ailing grandmother, and the other? He surprisingly said he didn’t really expect to win. As it turned out, he did win and you could see the sadness and disappointment on the face of his competition. He turned to her and said since
he wanted the experience of competing and really wasn’t expecting to win; he would like to give her the reward. Yes!
He actually did that! You could see the surprise; not only on her face, but on that of the judges. They couldn’t believe
Sadly, compassion is not a trait
we get to witness very often. Compassion, mentioned 98 times in the NASV, wants the best for the other person while sympathy, mentioned
twice, is feeling sorry for someone. Compassion includes action; a plan for helping. We may not see compassion modeled very
often these days, but we can look to Jesus as the perfect model of compassion.
There are several
different words for compassion in the Greek:
Oikteiro is having pity, a feeling of distress for others and
is used of God’s compassion in Romans 9:15.
Splanchnizomai (verb) is to be moved with compassion, to yearn
with compassion, frequently recorded of Christ towards the multitude and towards individual sufferers. Mt. 9:36; 14:14; 15:32;
18:27; 20:34; Mark 1:41; 6:34; 8:2; 9:22.
Splanchnon (noun) actually refers to the bowels; the seat of
emotion. It is from deep within that emotions can be touched – hate, pity, love and compassion. The word compassion
in Philippians 2:1 is from the same word; splanchnon, W.E. Vine, pg. 210.
As the above scriptures are referenced, compassion was evident in the ministry of Jesus. Throughout the gospel accounts,
we see that Jesus saw the needs of others and was moved to help. Jesus cried with his friends (John 11:35); cried over the condition of Jerusalem, Luke 13:34. His heart
“Jesus was going through all the cities and villages,
teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of
sickness. Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a
shepherd,” Matthew 9:35-37.
called His disciples to Him, and said, "I feel compassion for the people, because they have remained
with Me now three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way," Matthew 15:32.
book of Ruth, we see the compassion of Boaz. You will remember that Naomi, whose husband and two sons had died, was returning
to her home in Bethlehem; moving from the country of Moab. She intended that her two daughters-in-law would return to their own homes.
One (Orpah) did, but Ruth determined to stay with her mother-in-law and we remember her words in one of the most beautiful
expressions of love in all of Scripture:
"But Ruth said, "Do not urge me to leave you or
turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people,
and your God, my God. "Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the LORD do to me, and worse,
if anything but death parts you and me,’ Ruth 2:16, 17.
It was the beginning of harvest and Naomi and Ruth had no one to provide for them so Ruth went to a field to glean grain that
was left on the edges of the fields for the poor, Leviticus 19:10. Boaz saw her there and inquired as to who she was and learned
her situation. Word gets around, doesn’t it? He was a kind man who admired Ruth for her loyalty to Naomi. He had compassion
for her and not only gave her permission to glean from his fields, but planned for her safety as well. He even invited her
to eat with the reapers. You can read the rest
of the story to refresh yourselves on their relationship, but for
our purpose in this lesson, we note how compassionate Boaz was, not only to Ruth but to others. It is the same type compassion
that Joseph had for Mary – not wishing her to suffer any disgrace, Matthew 1:19.
Compassion not only wants the best for
others; it wants to find a solution to their misery. Why would we want to develop compassion? Is there a reward? What reward
did the Samaritan in Luke 10 receive when he rendered help to the helpless? Lessons on compassion have been quite evident
to me in the last year. My husband was hospitalized for five weeks last year and as he was cared for by nursing staff, it
was quite evident who had true compassion and who was putting in time to draw a paycheck. To some, the reward was the satisfaction
of relieving the needs of the patient; to others, the reward was the paycheck. We were attended to in many ways, but one great
display of compassion came from our youngest son’s father-in-law. This generous and caring man stayed many nights with
my husband, giving up his own night’s rest in a comfortable bed just to see that our needs were met. During that time
away from home, many kindnesses came our way.
may not be the easiest trait to develop. It can be as easy as a few moments of friendliness or as difficult as a long term
commitment to the chronically or mentally ill. At times, it can be just plain inconvenient. Will opportunities for compassion
come on our own schedule? If we don’t feel any particular compassion for others, what is the solution? Do we have a
choice? Is it all right to forego this quality and work on something else? Consider the following scriptures:
“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn
with those who mourn,” Romans 12:15.
“Carry each other's burdens, and in
this way you will fulfill the law of Christ,” Galatians 6:2
“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a
heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other,
whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you,” Colossians 3:12-14.
.We can do this. We can put on a heart of compassion,
because Jesus showed us how. When we realize how a simple act of compassion can change another’s life,we will want to search out those to help!
“The purpose of life is not to
be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and
Ralph Waldo Emerson
A Question of Trust
After the previous article, A Trusting Heart, this question
was received: “If we struggle to trust God and others, even
those who have given us no reason not to trust them, is this sin?”
Self examination is always good as we grow as Christians. If we have a problem with trust, we should
ask ourselves “What is the reason? Why do I feel this way?” In our society, where little white
lies are looked upon as acceptable and honesty is often a thing of
the past, it’s easy to lose trust in those around us. After all, if they’ll lie about this or that, they will also lie about other things. Where would trust begin? How do we build trust when the world seems unfair?
How do we live a trusting life – a life that not only glorifies
God but is pleasing to Him?
the children of Israel were given specific instructions regarding the
10th and last plague that was to come upon Egypt. They were to kill
the Passover lamb and use hyssop to put blood on the lintel and doorposts of their homes; then stay
inside until morning and the LORD would pass over, bringing no harm to them or their children. You can imagine that some may
have stayed up, wringing their hands and wondering if God was really
going to do what He said He would do, or they could sleep through
the night and be refreshed and ready for the trip ahead. How wonderful to have trust and sleep with assurance. This kind of trust
is what we’re looking for.
Look now at Jeremiah 17: 5-8: In
this passage, we are told that trusting in man and in his strength will be a curse because our heart will turn away from God. The descriptions that follow impress upon us just how bad that can be. We’ll be
like a bush or shrub in the desert, only existing in a desolate place; trying to grow in a land
of salt. Have you ever made homemade ice cream and dumped the salty water outside without thinking? It will leave a big brown
spot in an otherwise green lawn. Lack of trust in God has dire consequences but the following verses give us a beautiful word picture of a man who
trusts in the Lord. He is compared to a tree planted by the water that sends its roots out into the stream without fear. He’s
not even anxious in a year of drought and will bear fruit and have
leaves (with no brown spots)! Jeremiah credits God as being his strength and refuge in days of trouble, 16:19. If there’s anyone who knewthe blessings of trusting God firsthand, it was Jeremiah. He endured the dishonesty
of his nation, their idolatry and wickedness, yet found God’s words to be a joy and delight. He was virtually alone in his own country, enduring severe
persecution. He tried to warn his country about their fate if they did not return to God.
The point of sin, I believe, would be in where one is in the process. If we
turn from the Lord, as did Judah, we’re at the point of sin. If we turn to the Lord, as did Jeremiah, we are
going to be blessed. Remember, Jeremiah wasn’t a willing subject as God called him to prophesy but his trust kept building as God fulfilled His promises to him.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight,” Proverbs 3:5.
Since we are looking within – looking into
our hearts, we can realize that a wise Christian will be able to
build trust in themselves and others just by practicing the art of trust. It’s harder for some than for others, depending
on background and experiences. To build trust, you go to all lengths to keep from breaking a trust. Judging the motives of
another is a common element for lack of trust and it’s easy to do without even realizing it.
Let’s look at an example from the New Testament. In Matthew 14, when
Jesus was walking on water, Peter stepped out of the boat because of his trust and he also walked on water. His inability to do so wasn’t
even considered until...he took his eyes off of Jesus and lost his trust.
You would think that since he had just seen Jesus feed 5,000 people with five loaves and two fish that his trust would be rather secure but that’s how fickle our trust can be. If we take our
eyes off of Jesus, even for a short while, we’re in danger.
“The LORD also will be a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in
times of trouble; And those who know Your name
will put their trust in You,
For You, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You,” Psalm 9:9-10.
When it comes to trusting our friends, some self examination
may be in order to determine if we have too much pride and too little humility. We may find ourselves lacking in the trust department, but to the converse, can our friends trust us? Being kind and trusting is in order until there is a good reason to end
that trust. Our lives reveal what is in our hearts and if a person is not to be trusted, it will soon be revealed. We can trust others without absolute knowledge of their reliability and we can also trust God without absolute knowledge of Him. Have we seen Him?
No, but the evidence is sufficient for trust.
We could fill many pages with reasons to trust our Lord; not so many about trusting others, but when we do develop in
the art of trusting, we will find blessings, not only in that but also in being the object of trust. Among other teachings in the Sermon on
the Mount, Jesus gave us the keys to a good life in Matthew 7:12,
when He said, “In everything, therefore,
treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
“The highway of the upright is to depart from evil;
He who watches his way preserves his life.
And a haughty spirit before stumbling.
It is better to be humble in spirit with the lowly
Than to divide the spoil with
He who gives attention to the word will find good,
And blessed is he who trusts in the LORD,” Proverbs 16:17-20.
A Trusting Heart
“All I have seen teaches me to trust the creator
for all I have not seen.”
Luke 12 presents a story
about trust, even though the word is never mentioned. Jesus instructs the disciples about how to live; telling them not to
worry about their circumstances. God has provided for sparrows and the disciples are clearly more important. Seems simplistic,
doesn’t it? If all we had were a few feathers and a worm, would we worry any less? Birds can’t even rush to the
grocery for bread and milk (as is the frantic custom in the South) when the weather forecast includes snow.
After these word pictures about birds, lilies and clothes, Jesus says, “Fear
not little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom,” 12:32 ESV. Jesus cautions
them about being overly concerned with physical things and then says, “For where your treasure is, there will your
heart be also.” In Matthew’s account they are cautioned about being anxious for tomorrow. What will tomorrow
bring? “Sufficient for the day is its own trouble,” 6:34. In other words, don’t go there! Don’t
be possessed with what will happen tomorrow.
loving Shepherd, was helping the disciples to build trust; they were challenged to live one day at a time. Where does trust
begin? Surely it has to be in our homes, as little children. Trust grows in a family when parents love, nurture and provide
for their children, keeping them safe from harm. During a vicious storm, how many children will come to jump in bed with their
parents? They share their fears and look to their parents for protection. When my brother and I were growing up, our dad would
take us for Sunday afternoon walks through a wooded area not far from us. I remember a reservoir in that area, along with
a creek and paths through the woods. When we came to the creek, a tree had fallen across, making it possible to across there
instead of going further down the path. That is, if fear can be conquered. I was skittish about crossing, but daddy was right
behind me – at least I thought he was. Trust builds confidence, so I nervously crossed, hoping not to find a slick place
or a loose piece of bark and go tumbling in the water. When I reached the other side, daddy had been stomping his feet as
though he were right behind me, but there he stood on the opposite bank. Trust is an important element in order to conquer
As parents look to God for their daily needs,
trust is then instilled in their children. Trust issues throughout life can arise because these things were lacking as children,
but no matter what our background or how we were raised; the highest level of trust will be found in Jesus.
Jesus establishes trust throughout his ministry. As He concludes the Sermon on
the Mount, Jesus presents the choices. Depend on Him or be anxious every day – live a life of worry or a life of faith.
He builds on that as He goes about His ministry, establishing faith and trust through His works and miracles. After healing
the paralytic (Matthew 9:3-8; Mark 2:6-12; Luke 5:21-26), Scribes questioned His authority. Jesus, however, was already aware
of their thinking and asked, “Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts?” A centurion came to Jesus
asking Him to heal his servant (Matthew 8:5-13; Luke 7:1-10), and expressed to Jesus how unworthy he was to receive Him in
his home, but if He would just say the word, his servant could be healed. Jesus recognized a heart of faith and trust. In
both cases, Jesus knew what was in their hearts.
to fully appreciate His trust, let your mind briefly think of someone in whom you have a lack of trust. It could be a boss,
co-worker, political figure, spouse or relative. Lies, deceit, and dishonesty cause us not to put our trust in others. There’s
no more painful time than when someone you thought was a trusted friend or companion behaves otherwise. Once a trust is broken,
it is hard to regain.
David, in Psalm 37:3-5, gives three
key words for building this confidence.
Trust, delight and
Commit. “Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit
your way to the Lord. Trust also in Him and He will do it,” emphasis mine, JJ.
Why would we not want to trust God the Redeemer who planned such a magnificent journey for His children?
He perfectly planned our being and our salvation, saving the upright in heart, Psalm 7:10. He is our refuge. We are to trust
Him at all times and pour our hearts out before Him, Psalm 62:8. The one who trusts in the Lord is blessed, Proverbs 16:20.
Compare Proverbs 28: 25, 26; 29: 25.
Doing so will bring
delight. You will amaze others when your delight doesn’t fade even during times of trouble. Wasn’t it
the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31 who worked with her hands in delight? Jeremiah said God’s Words became a joy and the
delight of his heart, Jeremiah 15:16. God delights in uprightness (1 Chronicles 29:17) and you’ll remember several references
to His lack of delight when sacrifices and ceremony were given precedence over obedience, 1 Samuel 15:22; Hosea 6:6; Micah
We can be guilty of the same when we take pride in never
missing a Bible class or worship service and go through the motions of worship without involving our hearts. God wants us
to understand and know Him and we can do that by avoiding distraction and being dedicated to knowing Him through His Word.
“Thus says the LORD, ‘Let not
a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but
let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice
and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,’ declares the LORD,” Jeremiah 9:23-24.
This is where we commit. Trust comes by knowing the Word. Delight comes
when study reveals a better understanding; when we bend our daily lives to include time with God and see His marvelous plan
come together in our minds. As Bible study continues, so will our amazement!
“Great are the works of the LORD; They are studied by all who delight in them,” Psalm 111:2.
“Trust in the LORD
with all your heart and do not lean on your
own understanding,” Proverbs 3:5.
to article above:
I enjoyed this very much.
I am learning more and more recently to trust my child to the Lord. I actually think I have failed my children by trying
to do God's work in my own foolish, wordly wisdom (that even Christians are guilty of assuming and giving) I hope to model
this trust to them and others' who are also struggling with letting God be God. Thank you. -Donna
“Create in me a clean
heart, O God...”
is important in our daily lives. Posters remind us to wash our hands; cleansing wipes are available at the entrance to many
stores and hand sanitizer abounds, from giant economy size right down to a tiny purse size. Do you ever wonder how we got
along before this new obsession? We know and value the importance of personal cleanliness.
When visitors come, we want them to see us as neat and clean, with everything in place. Dirty laundry, messy bathrooms
(when will those kids learn!) and dishes in the sink don’t represent the person we want to be. With our busy, more casual
lives, hopefully the days of visitors inspecting every nook and cranny and making a judgment on what has or has not been done
have gone by the wayside. But if you have a reoccurring nightmare of your mother - in - law looking in every possible corner,
perhaps it’s time to take action!
Jesus chided the Pharisees for cleaning
the outside of a cup and leaving the inside dirty, saying they were blind. He then instructed them to first clean the inside
and in the process, the outside would also be cleaned, Matthew 23:25, 26. Clean, as used here, is katharos in the
Greek; free from impurity, without blemish or spotless, W.E. Vine, page 186. When Jesus was washing the feet of the disciples,
there was some discussion about bathing and then Jesus noted that not all the disciples were clean. Of course, we recognize
that He was not talking about their bodies, but their hearts, John 13:5-11. One particular heart was not katharos;
not spotless or without blemish. Clean can be relative when speaking of daily living, but not when we’re speaking of
Early on, we learn that a clean heart is to be treasured. In the Psalm
that was written after Nathan approached David about his sin with Bathsheba, David begged for that unsoiled heart and rightly
so! After breaking five of God’s Ten Commandments by coveting, committing adultery, lying about it, murdering Uriah
and stealing his wife, he desperately needed for his heart to be clean once again.
“Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear
joy and gladness, let the bones which You have broken rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me,” Psalm 51:7-10.
God has blessed us with solutions! How else could David be called “a man after God’s
own heart”? David needed unwavering resolve to have a clean heart; he longed for it; craved it and was sorry he
had not continued to cultivate it, Psalm 6; 32; 38; 143.
Since we are looking
into our hearts, how is our resolve? How far away is our clean heart? God will see the harsh words spoken, the little lie
told on the phone or the envy exhibited over someone’s possessions. He sees the bitterness and animosity we may have
toward others. We may view those as petty sins, not really that important. God also sees the less than desirable content we
viewed on the internet, flirting that shouldn’t have happened on girl’s night out or the amount of time wasted
on television or Facebook. Perhaps we’re just bored with marriage and have taken that relationship for granted; bored
with trying to build relationships with our sisters in Christ or trying to make others feel welcome and appreciated; so
bored we even tend to gossip just to entertain ourselves. We’re just bored, bored, bored. (Have we forgotten the things
God hates, Proverbs 6:16- 19?) Maybe it’s presumptuous of me, but that seemed to be David’s problem. He was not
busy and let his boredom lead him into sin. Why had he stayed in Jerusalem while his army went out to battle? He had been
in the battle against the sons of Ammon in the previous chapter. Why did he stay behind? Why was he walking around on the
roof in the evening?
Whatever the reason, 2 Samuel 12: 27 put it into perspective:
“The thing that David had done was evil in the sight of the Lord.”
Sin is like dirty laundry. We need to acknowledge it; sort it; use appropriate methods
for cleansing; and then fold it neatly before the Lord, making every effort to keep it clean, replacing any haughtiness with
humility. (When stains are left untreated, you know what happens.) We might be able to fool an unexpected visitor by hiding
some of our dirty laundry, but God is not an unexpected visitor. He knows every bit of our spiritual dirt. There was plenty
of filthy, dirty laundry in 1 Corinthians 6:9,10; so much so that one may think it would never come clean – but it did,
when the cleanser in verse 11 was applied.
“Or do you not
know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor
adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will
inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in
the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God,” 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.
Jesus spoke of all the evil things that can come out of the heart of man, Mark 7:20-23. James tells
us a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways, James 1:6-8. We learn how deceitful a heart can be in Jeremiah 17: 9-10.
"The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately
sick; Who can understand it? ‘I, the LORD, search the heart,
test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways,
to the results of his deeds.’ ”
There are stubborn hearts, hard
hearts, proud hearts and evil hearts. How can these dirty hearts ever become clean? We probably have a pretty good idea, but
do you ever wonder if your heart is clean or dirty? Closely examine yourself, asking what you do and why
you do it. The Pharisees liked attention and made sure their good works were noticed. Do we do the same? Remember Jesus’
comment? “They have their reward in full,” Matthew 6:2. Ouch! Let’s pay attention to that and make
correction as needed. Missing the full reward would be heart-breaking.
the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and
spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart (emphasis mine,jj).
And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we
have to do,” Hebrews 4:12,13.
The New Year is a time for
organizing, straightening and cleaning our physical dwellings. We want them clean enough to pass mother-in-law inspection!
What about our spiritual dwelling? What will it mean to you to have a clean heart? Are we ready for cleaning up our hearts?
Roll up your sleeves, there’s work involved, but just as with any project, the result has its rewards.
“I will give thanks to You, O Lord my God, with all my heart,
and will glorify Your name forever,” Psalm 86:12.
"For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support
those whose heart is completely His,” 2 Chronicles 16:9.
By Joyce Jamerson
“For if you forgive
others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. "But if you do not forgive others, then
your Father will not forgive your transgressions” Matthew 6:14,15.
Whether it is the Hatfields
and the McCoys, the Montagues and Capulets or the feuding families in Mark Twain’s Huck Finn, arguments and disagreements
have been around as long as people have been on the earth. How to live amicably together is an age old dilemma. Perhaps that’s
why Scripture mentions the words forgive 61 times; forgiveness 18 times and pardon 16 times in the NASV. In Matthew 18: 21-22,
Peter asked Jesus this question: "Lord, how often shall
my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” If
we were asking the question, would that answer be what we wanted to hear?
Jesus goes on
to explain forgiveness: A king wished to settle accounts with his slaves.
One owed him 10,000 talents but had no means to repay, so it was commanded that he be sold, along with his wife and children
and all that he had. With great distress, the slave asked for patience and would repay what was owed. The owner of the slave
felt compassion toward him and forgave him the entire debt. In turn, that slave found a fellow slave who owed him a significantly
smaller amount; a hundred denarii, started to choke him and demanded repayment. The fellow slave asked for patience, but the
slave was unwilling to forgive him the debt. All this was witnessed by fellow slaves, so they reported the matter to their
owner. The owner said, “You wicked slave, I forgave
you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that
I had mercy on you?” And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all
that was owed. “My heavenly Father will also do the
same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart," Matthew 18:23-35.
Clearly, we cannot be forgiven if we are not
ready to forgive. Unlike the servant, we need to remember the mercy that was shown us as well as to forgive. It’s fairly
easy to forgive an unintentional slip-up but the test gets harder when
revenge or hatred is part of the picture. If one truly forgives, memory of the event may remain but anger must be controlled
and resentment must stop. Jesus said, “Everyone who
is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment,” Matthew 5:22 ESV.
Obstacles to forgiveness:
Pride: What about my own pain? They don’t
know how that made me feel! (Romans 12:3) It’s all about me.
Lack of humility: Why is that speck in your eye (while there is a log in mine)? Matthew 7:1-5. Inspecting
others is easy; inspecting self is more difficult, for that may be an admission of imperfection.
Fear: I don’t want to say anything (fear the other person’s
response), it will just get worse; I’m too upset, Proverbs 3:7; 29:25. Facing fear can make us feel vulnerable.
Rehearsing details: Dwelling on it; repeating
the offense in our minds until we feel pretty good about our anger, Ephesians 4:31, 32.
Anger: Anger in itself is not a sin, but unresolved anger is damaging, Ephesians 4:26, James
Jealousy: There will always
be someone prettier, more fun, more at ease with prettier clothes. Snappy put-downs are unresolved anger and have no place
in the life of a Christian. Love is not jealous, 1 Corinthians 13:4; Proverbs 24:17.
forgiveness with trust: A wife can accept that her husband confessed his
affair, but consequences remain and trust has to be proven. Forgiveness does not mean we approve of the offense. Forgiveness
is giving the consequences to God and being able to dismiss it, Matthew 11:28-30.
Denial: Denial is not forgiveness, nor is forgetting. Putting it out of your mind may work
for a while but buried emotions have a way of reappearing in an ugly way. God can forgive and forget, Hebrews 8:12.
In 2 Timothy 4: 14, Alexander the coppersmith had done much harm to Paul, but Paul’s outlook? The Lord will repay
him according to his deeds. No matter what happened, when it happened or how hurtful and long lasting the event, give it to
God. Any sin against us cannot compare with the treatment Jesus endured
and the cruel treatment given. Yet he said, “Father,
forgive them for they do not know what they are doing,” Luke 23:34. Letting go of grudges results in less anxiety,
less stress and less depression; clearing the way; opening the heart for compassion, trust and kindness. A thorough study
of forgiveness could fill an entire book. There are some extremely difficult and heart wrenching situations and it can be
even more difficult to forgive ourselves for some sins of the past or even of the present. We can learn from Paul:
thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though
I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in
unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. It is
a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am
foremost of all,” 1 Timothy 1:12-15.
that Jesus is the one through whom forgiveness comes, so He put his sin in the past and pressed on, Philippians 3: 13-14.
Paul remembered what he had done, but there was no reason to hang onto guilt. He couldn’t forgive himself but Jesus
could. What freedom! Peace and joy can return because of God’s incredible plan for us; loving us so much that He sent
His Son to be our sacrifice. He cares so deeply for us; gave us His Word and His Holy Spirit to reveal the Word. Paul could
forgive others with confidence and go on with his work because he knew Jesus, Hebrews 10:19-24.
sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or
insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing,”
1 Peter 3:8-9.
Forgive others – forgive yourself;
peace and joy can be yours because
you have a forgiving heart.
Having Hearts of Courage
“Consider him who endured
such opposition from sinful men,
so that you will not grow weary and lose heart,” Hebrews 12:3
If your teen years included
watching Bonanza on television or John Wayne movies, as mine did, you may remember the reaction of the hero as a certain challenge
presented itself. He may have to save the farm, fight for justice, or defend a woman in distress. The determination on his
face could be seen as he protected his family or gathered a posse to attack the offender(s). His mind was made up and he would
prevail, no doubt about it. The good guys were always in the white hats and they always won.
It reminds me of Isaiah 50:7.
“But the Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not
been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame.” ESV
Just a few weeks ago, several of our northern
states were devastated with the effects of hurricane Sandy. Communities were leveled and whole families were lost. Children
were orphaned in the blink of an eye. Houses were destroyed and many are still without a place to call home. Looking at such
devastation makes one wonder how it will ever be rebuilt. And yet...it will.
The root word of discouragement is courage. Dale
Carnegie once said, “Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones
How we handle discouragement affects our ability to grow spiritually. We all have been discouraged
at times. When bodies are fatigued, minds are frustrated and best plans have come crashing down, what are the options? The
cause could be a fast and furious storm, a family difficulty, an unfair employer, disagreements among the church family or
_____________________________(you fill in the blank).
Let’s take a look at the life of David in 1 Samuel, starting with
David was only a shepherd boy when he was anointed by Samuel to be the next king of Israel, 16:13.
He was soon Saul’s musician, soothing the king with his skillful playing of the harp, v. 23. David went back and forth
from the palace to the pasture, until Goliath appeared on the scene. Then David fearlessly became a warrior, bringing Israel
to Victory, 1 Samuel 17. Meanwhile, David and Saul’s son Jonathan became fast friends and David married one of Saul’s
daughters, Michal. Saul was afraid of David and had become his enemy but David was a valiant warrior and skillfully avoided
Saul. When Saul’s hate escalated, his daughter Michal, who was now David’s wife, helped him escape. On a later
occasion, Saul’s son, Jonathan also helped him to escape.
David ended up hiding in a cave. From shepherd to musician to warrior
to a fugitive in a cave; surely he was wondering why he had been anointed! For the most of fourteen years, he ran from Saul
but not without his own band of 400 warriors. During this time, Saul gave his daughter to someone else and David’s mentor,
Samuel, had died; the last of the judges of Israel. David took two other wives, Ahinoam and Abigail. On numerous occasions,
David could have killed Saul, but would not salve his hurts by harming the Lord’s anointed. He appealed to Achish, the
king of Gath (Philistine territory) for a place to live and Achish let David, his family and his followers live in Ziklag.
David and his men would make raids against old enemies, leaving no survivors and capturing the spoils. Eventually the tables
were turned. Upon their arrival one day, they found Ziklag had been burned by the Amalekites and their wives and children
had been taken captive, 1 Samuel 30:1. (Read the rest of 1 Samuel, as they say, “for the thrilling conclusion.”.
Obviously, this is the Cliff notes version, but the entire book of 1 Samuel does make for some exciting reading!) Discouragement.
Pain. Confusion. Why Lord, Why? 1 Samuel 30:4 reads:
“Then David and the people who were with
him lifted their voices and
wept until there was no strength in them to weep.”
Over a period of a few years, David has suffered greatly. Ever been
in that position? Weeping until exhausted and there are no more tears because the trials in life just will not stop? Even
worse, because of all the above, David’s men were embittered and wanted to stone him! Nothing like having your own turn
against you in times of trouble. Continue on in verse 6.
“But David strengthened himself in the Lord
In troublesome times, David knew where to go.
For courage, he went straight to the Comforter. His understanding heart knew what many of us take too long to learn –
to take our problems straight to God and in doing so, created some of the most beautiful poetry ever written.
LORD is near to the brokenhearted
And saves those who are crushed in spirit,” Psalm 34:18.
Centuries later, Jesus spoke these words:
"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest,” Matthew 11:28. "Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also
in Me,” John 14:1.
times, Paul took these words to heart:
“...we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but
not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus
also may be manifested in our body,”
2 Corinthians 4:8-11.
“Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap
we do not grow weary,” Galatians
life has its sadness and frustrations: health problems, troubled marriages, disobedient children or unsatisfactory jobs; or
on a simpler note, an unsuccessful recipe or a seam that has been sewn several times and still won’t co-operate! As
an inventor, do you think Thomas A. Edison ever became disheartened? Consider this quote, and think how many times he must
have attempted an experiment before it was successful and the attitude that resulted.
not discouraged because every wrong attempt
discarded is another step
That happens to be a good pattern for spiritual growth. If knocked down, get up! Develop stamina and
courage! Persistence! Will we shrink? Or stretch?
Stretching or expanding our knowledge in God’s
Word will bring courage and increase our faith and bring us closer to our ultimate heavenly goal.
Don’t give up.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Friends: This series of looking
into our hearts will draw to a close with this issue. This series (with more development of each chapter) has been turned
into a workbook study of 13 lessons, entitled “Look Into Your Heart.” It is being published by Spiritbuilding
(Spiritbuilding.com) and will probably be released in January.