Psalms 140-142 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: Because He loves us so, He perfects and changes us through His messengers

No one likes to be criticized.  I’ve never started the day with the thought I hope someone criticizes me today so that I can grow and improve.  Critical words can disrupt a friendship and destroy family ties, yet when those words come from pure intent, they can change us and make us more like Him.  David was facing an enemy in our reading today.  We don’t know for certain if he was trying to save his own life from the king who had gone rogue or if it was in battle; but in the midst of it all, David opened his life to criticism as he prayed to the Lord for help. 

@ Psalm 141
David’s heartfelt prayer that he offered in a difficult circumstance is an example for us of the contrition and humility we should exhibit in the challenges we face.  His first step was surrender, “Accept my prayer as incense offered to you, and my upraised hands as an evening offering.” (2)  His arms were raised in surrender to the One who would help him.  David offered plenty of suggestions of what God could do to his enemies, but his first action was one of surrender.

David surrendered the most difficult member of his body according to James 3:6; he surrendered the words of his mouth.  “Take control of what I say, O Lord, and guard my lips.” (3)  How easy it is in the face of criticism and pressure to spout off the first thing that comes to mind, but it’s rarely a good thing.  Guard our lips, Lord.

Don’t let me drift toward evil or take part in acts of wickedness.  Don’t let me share in the delicacies of those who do wrong.” (4)  Seldom do we move from a godly life one day to the depths of sin the next.  It is usually a slow drift, a little compromise here and a little concession there.  It is right here, at this moment, that David opened his life to the possibility of criticism.  God often uses the wise counsel of others to help keep us on track, to keep us from drifting and sharing in the deeds of evil and wickedness.  It’s much easier to see the drift in others because we’re not standing in their skin.

However, David knew exactly what he was praying, “Let the godly strike me! It will be a kindness!  If they correct me, it is soothing medicine.  Don’t let me refuse it.” (5)  Only a heart of humility will look at criticism in this way.  The key word is godly. “Let the godly strike me!”  David asked God over and over again to protect him from the criticism of the ungodly, but when the godly offered correction, he said: “Bring it on!”  Solomon expressed this same thought throughout Proverbs, “Correct the wise, and they will love you.  Instruct the wise, and they will be even wiser. Teach the righteous, and they will learn even more.” (9:8-9)

No, I don’t like criticism, but when it comes from time to time, I want to listen with the surrendered heart of David, keeping my mouth shut in the face of it. I want to view it as an act of kindness from someone who cares about my well-being and prayerfully considers its message.   In prayer, God has always been faithful to reveal the truth of the matter to my heart.  Even more than my own desire, God wants me to be wise and righteous.  He will send the godly to my life when He sees the drift, and how could I not receive His messengers? 

Moving Forward: It humbles me to think that the God of all heaven and earth is so mindful of the condition of my heart that He sends His messengers to bring wisdom and righteousness to my life.  “All to Jesus, I surrender…” 

Tomorrow @ Song of Solomon 1-2 (Help)

2 Chronicles 25-28 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He looks for a humble response to His blessings

For many years I had the privilege of speaking to the women in attendance at an annual conference.  I always spent a lot of time in preparation and a great deal of time in prayer about it.  I remember one year my message was especially well received and our time together was blessed by the Lord.  After the meeting, a woman came up to me and asked me to share this same message with the ladies group at her church, and we secured a date.

When the day arrived, I only briefly went over my notes because I knew the material well, and because it was a busy week for me, my prayer time for the meeting was minimal.  I proceeded with all the confidence in the world when I got up to share, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that it wasn’t going well.  Possibly the term lead balloon best describes my reception that night.  No anointing, no response – I could hardly stand to listen to the message myself!  Needless to say, I have taken my ministry preparation very seriously ever since that night and vowed that I would never again rest on any laurels or attempt to speak His truths in my own strength.  In response to my repentance, God has been gracious and merciful to me, but unfortunately, Israel’s King Uzziah just didn’t get it. 

@ 2 Chronicles 26
“Uzziah was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-two years…Uzziah sought God during the days of Zechariah, who taught him to fear God.  And as long as the king sought guidance from the Lord, God gave him success.” (3-5)  Uzziah’s accomplishments were many.  He reinforced the city walls with fortified towers that archeologists have now uncovered that were built to protect his many herds of cattle.

Uzziah developed magnificent gardens and vineyards because of his love for the soil.  He built a strong, well-equipped army as well as new defensive weapons that would be copied and used for many centuries.  “His fame spread far and wide, for the Lord gave him marvelous help, and he became very powerful.” (16)  Enter that old deceiver – pride.

“But when he had become powerful, he also became proud, which led to his downfall. He sinned against the Lord his God by entering the sanctuary of the Lord’s Temple and personally burning incense on the incense altar.” (16)  Uzziah had every possibility of finishing strong, but once again a king in Jerusalem ended in defeat.  His pride brought leprosy and isolation to him after a tremendous start as the king.  While I had hoped to find a message of encouragement from 2 Chronicles, today is not the day. However, through King Uzziah’s life, we see a lesson to be learned about our response to God’s blessings in our lives.  It’s easy to become strangely enamored with ourselves through our promotions and successes.

If God’s blessings do not bring us to our knees in humility, they just may bring us to our knees in destruction because of our prideful response to them.  When blessings and promotions come our way, we shouldn’t think that it’s because of our goodness, because we spoke so well or because we governed so well.  Our blessings are all about Him and His mercy and grace to us.  Our best response to His blessings is a bow of the head, a prayer of thanksgiving and a heart of humility.  And with that, we will finish strong. 

Moving Forward: I pray my response to His blessings today will be that of thanksgiving and humility and not taking Him for granted.

Tomorrow @ Psalm 122-124

 

Proverbs 26-27 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He tests our hearts to keep us pure

I once heard a great preacher say after a grand and glorious introduction and thunderous applause that his greatest troubles would begin if he started to believe the introductions he received.  Let’s hear it for humility!

Through the years, many books have been written about humility, many of them with an edge of humor, books like Humility and How I Achieved It, (C.Neale) and How to Stay Humble When You’re Smarter Than Everybody Else. (B. Goode)  Interesting concepts, to say the least!  The definition of humility is “humbleness, modesty, unassuming nature, meekness – a way of behaving that shows that you do not think that you are better or more important than other people.”  I guess most of us could take a dose of that.

@Proverbs 27
“Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but a person is tested by being praised.” (21)  The original process of testing the purity of gold involved lead, silver and gold heated together in a 2000° F oven until the gold and silver melted and their impurities adhered to the lead.  After cooling, the silver and gold were separated, and the final gold product was pure 24 karat gold.  Needless to say, we won’t be trying this at home.  While the testing process of a person’s humility seems very benign in comparison, how we respond in our hearts under the heat of praise and adulation reveals how pure we really are.

Some may feel they are still waiting for the opportunity to be tested by great praise, but most of us have felt the heat. We’ve felt that glow of warm fuzzies reaching all the way to our toes resulting from words of honor, admiration or praise from others at one time or another.  If we survive without arrogance and pride rearing their ugly heads, we are the real deal, pure as gold.

True humility is not exhibited by a self-effacing attitude or by feelings of worthlessness.  True humility is accepting our positions in life as God-given and doing our best with them through His divine help.  With this attitude, should praise from others come our way, we know Who deserves all the glory and how preposterous it would be to assume it for ourselves.  Another great reality check for us from the Proverbs! 

Moving Forward: Once again, it’s all about you, Lord, it’s all about you!  And that fact removes any pressure of determining who gets the glory. 

Tomorrow @ Obadiah

Proverbs 11-12 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He delights in our honesty and humility, and He rewards them with wisdom

A day at the Minnesota State Fair was always one of the highlights of my year when I was young.  Where else can you get fried cheese curds, sugary Tom Thumb donuts and food on a stick?  Yum!  My dad always walked us through the Midway where the rides whirled over our heads and hucksters barked and called to him to take a chance at winning the big prize.  I wanted that big prize, the big cuddly stuffed something, but he always just kept walking, eyes focused straight ahead.

When I asked him one time why he wouldn’t stop and try to win a prize for me, he said that the games were crooked, the balls were weighted and the chances were slim – they couldn’t be trusted.  I never viewed the Midway and its hucksters the same way again. Since then I’ve walked through many midways in life, and I’ve tried to keep my focus straight ahead with added determination for my own life to never be described as one that could not be trusted.  Thanks, dad! 

@ Proverbs 11
“The Lord detests the use of dishonest scales, but He delights in accurate weights.  Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.  Honesty guides good people.” (1-3) Solomon addressed the problem of dishonest scales several times in Proverbs, where the weighing of foods and goods was common business practice and where heavy thumbs and hidden weights were tools used to cheat buyers.  Dishonest business practices still prevail today, but of course the methods are much more sophisticated and elaborate.  Why do people cheat each other?

It’s interesting that Solomon slips this little statement about pride in between two verses on honesty, “Pride leads to disgrace.”  When we feel that our gain and our advancement are more vital than that of someone else to the point of dishonesty, it is because we regard ourselves as better and more important. The definition of pride: a haughty attitude shown by somebody who believes that he or she is better than others. Ouch!

Clearly, pride throws the Golden Rule right out the window.  But, “…with humility comes wisdom.”  Humility: the quality of being modest, respectful and meek.  Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5, NIV)  Now that’s quite an inheritance! A prideful heart seeks to bless itself while a heart of humility is blessed by the Lord.

Whenever my motivation in any transaction or exchange, whether financial, relational or really anything is to bless me at an expense or loss to someone else, it’s time for me to evaluate that motivation.  The incredible One-day Sale at Macy’s where sale prices almost seem like stealing?  Acceptable!  Cheating the sales clerk, the tax collector, my spouse or a customer? Not good.  I don’t ever want to be like the dishonest huckster who cannot be trusted.

Honesty guides good people.” Honesty is a valuable guide through the midways of life.  It is humble, reliable, timeless, easy to remember…and it’s trustworthy!  So in light of these scriptures, the right way to gain or advance in life is to treat others in the way we like to be treated, with humility and respect, and we can be certain that honesty will come right alongside and help us do it. Our efforts will be blessed with wisdom and a rich inheritance! 

Moving Forward: Honest guidance today from the Golden Rule, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.” (Matthew 7:12)  I can’t go wrong. 

Tomorrow @ Ezekiel 31-36

Psalms 140-142 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: Because He loves us so, He perfects and changes us through His messengers

No one likes to be criticized.  I’ve never started the day with the thought I hope someone criticizes me today so that I can grow and improve.  Critical words can disrupt a friendship and destroy family ties, yet when those words come from pure intent, they can change us and make us more like Him.  David was facing an enemy in our reading today.  We don’t know for certain if he was trying to save his own life from the king who had gone rogue or if it was in battle; but in the midst of it all, David opened his life to criticism as he prayed to the Lord for help. 

@ Psalm 141
David’s heart-felt prayer that he offered in a difficult circumstance is an example for us of the contrition and humility we should exhibit in the challenges we face.  His first step was surrender, “Accept my prayer as incense offered to you, and my upraised hands as an evening offering.” (2)  His arms were raised in surrender to the One who would help him.  David offered plenty of suggestions of what God could do to his enemies, but his first action was one of surrender.

David surrendered the most difficult member of his body according to James 3:6; he surrendered the words of his mouth.  “Take control of what I say, O Lord, and guard my lips.” (3)  How easy it is in the face of criticism and pressure to spout off the first thing that comes to mind, but it’s rarely a good thing.  Guard our lips, Lord.

Don’t let me drift toward evil or take part in acts of wickedness.  Don’t let me share in the delicacies of those who do wrong.” (4)  Seldom do we move from a godly life one day to the depths of sin the next.  It is usually a slow drift, a little compromise here and a little concession there.  It is right here, at this moment, that David opened his life to the possibility of criticism.  God often uses the wise counsel of others to help keep us on track, to keep us from drifting and sharing in the deeds of evil and wickedness.  It’s much easier to see the drift in others because we’re not standing in their skin.

However, David knew exactly what he was praying, “Let the godly strike me! It will be a kindness!  If they correct me, it is soothing medicine.  Don’t let me refuse it.” (5)  Only a heart of humility will look at criticism in this way.  The key word is godly. “Let the godly strike me!”  David asked God over and over again to protect him from the criticism of the ungodly, but when the godly offered correction, he said “Bring it on!”  Solomon expressed this same thought throughout Proverbs, “Correct the wise, and they will love you.  Instruct the wise, and they will be even wiser. Teach the righteous, and they will learn even more.” (9:8-9)

No, I don’t like criticism, but when it comes from time to time, I want to listen with the surrendered heart of David, keeping my mouth shut in the face of it. I want to view it as an act of kindness from someone who cares about my well-being and prayerfully consider its message.   In prayer, God has always been faithful to reveal the truth of the matter to my heart.  Even more than my own desire, God wants me to be wise and righteous.  He will send the godly to my life when He sees the drift, and how could I not receive His messengers? 

Moving Forward: It humbles me to think that the God of all heaven and earth is so mindful of the condition of my heart that He sends His messengers to bring wisdom and righteousness to my life.  “All to Jesus, I surrender…” 

Tomorrow @ Song of Solomon 1-2 (Help)

2 Chronicles 25-28 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He looks for a humble response to His blessings

For many years I had the privilege of speaking to the women in attendance at an annual conference.  I always spent a lot of time in preparation and a great deal of time in prayer about it.  I remember one year my message was especially well received and our time together was blessed by the Lord.  After the meeting, a woman came up to me and asked me to share this same message with the ladies group at her church, and we secured a date.

When the day arrived, I only briefly went over my notes because I knew the material well, and because it was a busy week for me, my prayer time for the meeting was very limited.  I proceeded with all the confidence in the world when I got up to share, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that it wasn’t going well.  Possibly the term lead balloon best describes my reception that night.  No anointing, no response – I could hardly stand to listen to the message myself!  Needless to say, I have taken very seriously my ministry preparation ever since that night and vowed that I would never again rest on any laurels or attempt to speak His truths in my own strength.  In response to my repentance, God has been gracious and merciful to me, but unfortunately, Israel’s King Uzziah just didn’t get it. 

@ 2 Chronicles 26
“Uzziah was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-two years…Uzziah sought God during the days of Zechariah, who taught him to fear God.  And as long as the king sought guidance from the Lord, God gave him success.” (3-5)  Uzziah’s accomplishments were many.  He reinforced the city walls with fortified towers that archeologists have now uncovered that were built to protect his many herds of cattle.

Uzziah developed great gardens and vineyards because of his love for the soil.  He built a strong, well-equipped army as well as new weapons for defense that would be copied and used for many centuries.  “His fame spread far and wide, for the Lord gave him marvelous help, and he became very powerful.” (16)  Enter that old deceiver – pride.

“But when he had become powerful, he also became proud, which led to his downfall. He sinned against the Lord his God by entering the sanctuary of the Lord’s Temple and personally burning incense on the incense altar.” (16)  Uzziah had every possibility of finishing strong, but once again a king in Jerusalem ended in defeat.  His pride brought leprosy and isolation to him after a tremendous start as king.  While I had hoped to find a message of encouragement from 2 Chronicles, today is not the day; but through King Uzziah’s life we find a lesson to be learned about our response to God’s blessings in our lives.  It’s easy to become strangely enamored with ourselves through our promotions and successes.

If God’s blessings do not bring us to our knees in humility, they just may bring us to our knees in destruction because of our prideful response to them.  When blessings and promotions come our way, we shouldn’t think that it’s because of our goodness, because we spoke so well or because we governed so well.  Our blessings are all about Him and His mercy and grace to us.  Our best response to His blessings is a bow of the head, a prayer of thanksgiving and a heart of humility.  And with that, we will finish strong. 

Moving Forward: I pray my response to His blessings today will be that of thanksgiving and humility and not taking Him for granted.

Tomorrow @ Psalm 122-124

 

Proverbs 26-27 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He tests our hearts to keep us pure

I once heard a great preacher say after a grand and glorious introduction and thunderous applause that his greatest troubles would begin if he started to believe the  introductions he received.  Let’s hear it for humility!

Through the years, many books have been written about humility, many of them with an edge of humor, books like, Humility and How I Achieved It, (C.Neale) and How to Stay Humble When You’re Smarter Than Everybody Else. (B.Goode)  Interesting concepts, to say the least!  The definition of humility is “humbleness, modesty, unassuming nature, meekness – a way of behaving that shows that you do not think that you are better or more important than other people.”  I guess most of us could take a dose of that.

@Proverbs 27
“Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but a person is tested by being praised.” (21)  The original process of testing the purity of gold involved lead, silver and gold heated together in a 2000° F oven until the gold and silver melted and their impurities adhered to the lead.  After cooling, the silver and gold were separated and the final gold product was pure 24 karat gold.  Needless to say, we won’t be trying this at home.  While the testing process of a person’s humility seems very benign in comparison, how we respond in our hearts under the heat of praise and adulation reveals how pure we really are.

Some may feel they are still waiting for the opportunity to be tested by great praise, but most of us have felt the heat. We’ve felt that glow of warm fuzzies reaching all the way to our toes resulting from words of honor, admiration or praise from others at one time or another.  If we survive without arrogance and pride rearing their ugly heads, we are the real deal, pure as gold.

True humility is not exhibited by a self-effacing attitude or by feelings of worthlessness.  True humility is accepting our positions in life as God-given and doing our best with them through His divine help.  With this attitude, should praise from others come our way, we know Who deserves all the glory and how preposterous it would be to assume it for ourselves.  Another great reality check for us from the Proverbs! 

Moving Forward: Once again, it’s all about you, Lord, it’s all about you!  And that fact removes any pressure of determining who gets the glory. 

Tomorrow @ Obadiah