In Psalm 142, we read a statement that some people really couldn’t truthfully speak if saying what was truly on the heart. It is a statement that makes a decision that we each have to make. Some people will never reach this prayer.
First, the Psalmist prays, “You are my place of refuge.” We often will embrace this. We often will pray for this refuge. We will claim God is the One who provides safety and protection. But the Psalmist continues, “You are all I really want in life.” This separates people. This divides families. This causes chaos at work and school. This bold statement overflows from the heart of one who truly desires God. This is the desire we should all have.
Can you today say God is all you really want in life? Or is your life still the “God and … life”? Can you pray this prayer or is there something still between you and God? Is He all you really want? Ask the Spirit to reveal anything that may be keeping you from this prayer. Ask Him to remove anything that hinders this desire. May He be all you really want.
“Then I pray to you, O LORD. I say, ‘You are my place of refuge. You are all I really want in life.’” – Psalm 142:5 [NLT]
I am not much of a runner; however, I have been blessed over the past few years to watch my daughter run for Cross Country. She loves running Cross Country. Running the race, is not simply about being the winner—as there can only be one—but also about beating a personal record or P.R., as the experienced runners know it to be called. My daughter was always about beating her P.R., but recently she has been held back. The thing she loved most about running, that time alone to clear her mind and reconnect, was not happening because she couldn’t focus.
My daughter’s friend wanted to move up and join the high school practices due to transportation issues. The friend is a bit slower and loves to talk more than my daughter (I didn’t think that was possible). The practices no longer were about body conditioning, preparing for the season. The runs were no longer a time of peace and enjoyment. My daughter found herself being held back, running at a slower pace. With her friend’s gift of gab, they also were missing some instructions for some of the practice runs. This caused them to get lost a few times, run shorter or longer courses, and my daughter unnecessary stress. My daughter and I had a long talk about boundaries and goals.
Friends are great. Relationships are important. In life, we have a choice who we invest our lives in. We also have a choice of who we surround ourselves with and we have a choice of priorities. Jesus should have first place in our lives. The Bible tells us to love God and love others, to go and make disciples, to serve—we have choices to make to see these things through. Paul wrote that we should give everything our best as if for the Lord. All is for His glory. When we allow ourselves to be held back, for our focus to drift, if we surround ourselves with people who will constantly keep us from being where God wants us, we are not properly aligned. Today, reflect on God’s will for your life. Consider your relationships. Look at the boundaries you have in your life so that you are able to pursuit the goals God placed before you. Above all, make sure you connect with Him today—in His Word and in prayer.
“And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.” – Colossians 3:17 [NLT]
Jacob wanted to build an altar to God. An altar represents the presence of God—it was how one would have an encounter with God. He recognized the need to be clean before a holy God. He commanded everyone to toss out all of the other gods. They were to rid themselves of anything and everything that was not God the one true God. Then Jacob commanded that they take “a good bath and put on clean clothes.” They were purifying themselves. This was an outward display to signify a change of heart—a ceremonial cleansing.
Many scholars see this bathing as a likeness to baptism as this washing was done to signify their choice to serve the one true God. Baptism is an immersion into water or sprinkling of water which signifies purification. It is the ceremony people participate in when they accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. In doing this, people choose to give their lives to the one true God. By doing so, you receive the Holy Spirit and therefore have the presence of God within you.
You may have already been baptized, but you might not have tossed out all of the alien gods in your life. Something might be pulling you away from the presence of God. Evaluate where you are today and see if anything is taking the place of God in your life. He should be first always. Today is a good day for a cleaning. Let us put on clean clothes and walk forward in His presence.
“Jacob told his family and all those who lived with him, ‘Throw out all the alien gods which you have, take a good bath and put on clean clothes, we’re going to Bethel. I’m going to build an altar there to the God who answered me when I was in trouble and has stuck with me everywhere I’ve gone since.’”
-Genesis 35:2-3 [MSG]
A singleness of heart . An united heart. An undivided heart. A fixed heart. A heart for God. A single purpose. A tender, responsive heart. An obedient heart. A heart sensitive to God (ISV, GW, NLT, NIV).
God promised this heart to His people. For so long the people were divided. For so long they were sometimes following Him and other times following other gods. There was no true repentance because of their stony hearts.
God has given us the opportunity to be rid of our stony heart and have a heart that is sensitive to Him, a heart that brings us to our knees, that repents, that desires to do the will of God, and that seeks Him and Him alone. If you want God to change your heart and give you His Spirit, ask and be ready to receive.
“And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart.” – Ezekiel 11:19 [NLT]
Most people can remember a time they put something considered valuable in a pocket that happened to have a hole in it that allowed the item to escape. I have seen so much money fall to the ground as a result of pockets filled with holes.
Through Haggai, the Lord was delivering a message. At this time the people had homes but the Lord’s house remained a ruin. Today’s verse spoke of how the people “planted much but harvest little.” It speaks about eating and drinking but those actions not resulting in fulfillment. He compares the wages for their laboring as money tossed in “pockets filled with holes.” All of these things mentioned give us a picture of someone who is doing, but doing without God getting first place.
We can plant. We can eat. We can drink. We can have closets full of clothing. We can have a large bank account. But without God, these things aren’t satisfying. There is a void. It is as if putting something of value into pockets with holes. It will all slip out. All is lost. Only through Christ are we able to find true joy and satisfaction. Only through Christ can we truly live. Where are you placing your relationship with God today?
“You have planted much but harvest little. You eat but are not satisfied. You drink but are still thirsty. You put on clothes but cannot keep warm. Your wages disappear as though you were putting them in pockets filled with holes!” – Haggai 1:6 [NLT]
“They exchanged their glorious God for an image of a bull, which eats grass.” – Psalm 106:20 [NIV]
I get very sad when I read today’s verse because it mentions something so horrible. To think that the Israelites exchanged God for some man created image to worship instead of worshiping the one true God, our Creator, our Sustainer, our Redeemer. It’s sad.
Sadly, we are all guilty of this too. At one time or another, we have exchanged God for something else that came first in life. Perhaps it was a job, a relationship, money or pleasure. The list is endless. We are all guilty.
Today look at where you are currently at with your relationship with God. Is He number one or is something else first on your list? Where are you spending your money? Where are you giving your time? What means most to you? You don’t lose out by having God first in your life—you’re richly blessed. Are you focused on your glorious God, or is there a grass eating bull in your life?
When my daughter came home from school yesterday, she gave me this little comic drawing of a coffee cup. On the back she wrote that I was as sweet as coffee. My daughter never tasted coffee and she did not realize that coffee has a bitter taste unless sugar is added. She simply sees me drinking it and assumes it must taste good because I drink it often. Therefore she developed this false impression of the taste of coffee.
The same can be said of the Pharisees in the Bible. People observed them walking around holding people to the Law. People assumed that the Pharisees, being educated in the Scripture, were more knowledgeable and understanding of God and what He desired from us. It was quite a false impression, something that can be seen so easily when the Pharisees are called white-washed tombs (Matthew 23:27). They looked great on the outside but on the inside things were not so great. Just like the coffee looks nice and sweet because I’m drinking it each morning, but it is very bitter without some sugar.
God tells us that He desires our love, and Paul wrote that whatever we do, if it is done without love it means nothing (1 Corinthians 13:3). The Bible says that God can see our heart, our true heart (1 Samuel 16:7). He selected David because of what He saw in David’s heart. Our aim should be to have a pure heart, a heart that loves God first, and loves others. There should be no false impression, no confusion as to the appearance of our heart and our motives if we are living our lives with an outpouring of God’s love. The same love that God shows us, we can show others (1 John 4:7).
Today, look at your heart and see what is there.
• Do you love people like Jesus?
• Are you carrying around bitterness and unforgiveness?
• Where are areas for improvement in your life?
Over the holidays many people have purchased smart phones. When I first began using my smart phone, I wondered how smart I had to be to use the phone. It turned out that I wasn’t having problems understanding how to use the Internet on my phone, but rather, the customer service representative put the wrong plan code on my account which was causing problems with my service. When that was fixed, the road has since been smooth.
I never really wanted a smart phone. I thought the idea of touching a screen was insane. I always tell my kids to not touch the computer monitor or the television because it causes smudges and here I was with a phone that was about to get smudged up every time I touched it, despite how many times I washed my hands. The oil from our hands always seems to leave its mark.
The other day I placed my phone on the charger and when I returned I noticed a very interesting smudge. I saw the cross. I thought it was interesting how clear it was on the phone. Now please don’t start to think I am going to continue on to tell you about Jesus’ image on toast. I know it was the oil from my hand that made the cross, and I know it was my phone usage that caused it.
The fact is that I make the shape of a cross all the time on my phone. Most do not do that. I watched numerous people, and they do a tap system with smaller swipes. Nonetheless, it matters not how I was doing it differently, but that there was this continuous checking. A vertical swipe to see if there were any notifications. A horizontal swipe to maneuver through the screens. Back and forth.
At the end of all that seeking, I had the cross. This coincides with my point, which is that it is the cross that gave us the opportunity to seek God, and yet I wasn’t making the cross on my phone to seek God. I was looking for other things. I wasn’t taking things to God. I was sending text messages and chatting on Facebook.
After a moment, I thought of how we too often do not take things to God. We are always seeking our own solutions. We have our vertical swipe to see if possibly we can fix it on our own. We have our horizontal swipe to see if a friend can give us the answer. We have problems with looking to God. Even when we know that He is bigger than any problem, we don’t take it to Him. Sometimes when we do take it to Him, we have our own agenda and when we start to hear His, we switch screens with another swipe.
When Christ was on the cross, He thought of you and He thought of me. He made sure that His number was entered into our SIM card. We were not forced to place a call or send a message, but the door was there to open at any time. The door is still there. When we stop swiping and start looking, we can see it. When we turn off the ringer to our phone and allow the Spirit to guide us, there will surely be no desire to swipe away. Our burden will be lifted. No matter how big a problem, we know we have victory with Christ!
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God” [Philippians 4:6 NASB]
“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” [1 Corinthians 15:57 ESV].