Showing posts with label Matters of the Heart. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Matters of the Heart. Show all posts

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Way of the Secret, Open Heart

https://www.flickr.com/photos/eltonharding/426383747/
Rend your heart and not your garments. (Joel 2:13)
“Rend your heart,” says Joel, “not your garments.” Rending, or tearing open, the garment was a way to demonstrate grief or repentance. In practice, it would be either a true sign of an inward disposition or, as it often was, merely an outward display, an empty show — and God had had enough of that from his people. In Isaiah, the Lord voiced his complaint: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught” (Isaiah 29:13). This was a chronic condition with them, and once again, in Joel, it was time for a change in their inward disposition — a true repentance.

By the time of Christ, the Pharisees had perfected their sanctimony. The Lord Jesus spoke out against this in the Sermon on the Mount, particularly in regard to the practice of charity, prayer and fasting:
Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him …

When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:1-8, 16-18)
Alms, prayer and fasting are all very good things, but the Pharisees had become something of a play-actors guild with them. Jesus called them hypocrites, from the Greek word hypokrites, a term for stage-players and other pretenders. His criticism was that they were putting on masks and playing parts that did not match who they really were in their hearts. Everything became a show, to be seen by others. Their alms, prayer and fasting were for the applause of men. This praise was what they were angling for — and that would be all they would receive. Jesus’ sad refrain about them was, “Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.” God was not impressed with them, for though God does indeed care about our actions, he is more concerned with the heart from which those actions spring: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23).

The Lord Jesus calls us to a different way, a way that is not about us, a way of humility. It is at once both a quiet, secret way, yet the way of an open heart. It is the way of Jesus, who did not come to please himself but to please the Father. Not to be served but to serve and to pour out his life for our sake. Paul exhorts us to this same mindfulness:
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5-8)
There was a hiddenness in the way Christ came into the world. Though he was God’s Anointed King, and fully divine as well as fully human, he was not born in the sanctity of a temple or the luxury of a palace but in the simplicity of a stable. He did not grow to maturity in a royal court but in the obscurity of a little village and the home of a humble carpenter.

There was also a hiddenness in his ministry, which was often unannounced. Many times, the crowds even had to track him down. Sometimes the disciples, too, had to search for him. He spent much time, in the late evening or early morning hours, off by himself in a quiet place, praying. His death on the cross was not glorious but shameful in the eyes of the world, designed to humiliate him and his followers.

He did not come to exalt himself but to empty himself — yet he did not lose anything of his divinity by doing so. Rather, in taking the nature of a servant, he revealed to us the very nature of God, who is love. In him, then, is exemplified the second refrain from those passages in the Sermon on the Mount: “Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)
Understand, Christ did not humble himself in order to be exalted. His humility and servanthood is itself exaltation. His love and the giving of himself is the glory. For he has never ceased to be human, never ceased to be servant, never ceased pouring himself out for us. In a word, he has never ceased to be love. That is the “secret” way that gives light to the whole world, and Jesus calls us to himself that we might learn him and the way of the secret, open heart.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Upright in Heart

My defense is of God
Who saves the upright in heart.
(Psalm 7:10)

Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous;
And shout for joy all you upright in heart.
(Psalm 32:11)

Oh, continue Your lovingkindness to those who know You,
And Your righteousness to the upright in heart.
(Psalm 36:10)

The righteous shall be glad in the LORD, and trust in Him.
And all the upright in heart shall glory.
(Psalm 64:10)

But judgment will return to righteousness,
And all the upright in heart will follow it.
(Psalm 94:15)

Light is sown for the righteous,
And gladness for the upright in heart.
(Psalm 97:11)

I will praise You with uprightness of heart,
When I learn your righteous judgments.
(Psalm 119:7)
The Hebrew word for “upright” is yashar and speaks of being straight, level, right, pleasing, just, fitting, proper. To be upright in heart is to be transparent, open before the LORD. David knew much about this. His heart was so opened up to God that he was called “a man after My own heart” (Acts 13:22).

David learned that there is no hiding out from God. He had tried that and it didn’t work — he became sick inside and out (Psalm 32:3-4). It was not until he became honest before God, confessing his sin, that he not only experienced relief but also an unexpected sense of elation, for he discovered once again the graciousness of God (see Surrounded by Faithful Love and Joyful Shouts). He recommends that same kind of transparency of heart before God, because there is gladness, and twirling and shouting for joy to be had (32:11).

To be upright in heart is to know God (Psalm 36:10). Knowing God is not about having information about Him but relationship with Him. It is personal, not perfunctory. The focus is not on duty but on delighting in Him. Paul’s prayer for the Church was that “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him” (Ephesians 1:17), to know God more and more, deeply and intimately.

To be upright in heart is to trust in the LORD. It is the transparency of faith. We can depend on Him to defend and deliver us (Psalm 7:10), enlighten and guide us (97:11), instruct us in what is right and good (119:7). It is faith in God that actually pleases Him. Not that our deeds are unimportant, but they must come from an open and trusting heart that is turned toward God. “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

For those who know, honor and love the LORD, who diligently seek after Him, who are transparent before Him and confident in Him, the rewards are really quite magnificent. He will spread out His steadfast love and faithfulness to cover them (Psalm 36:10, see The Prevailing Love of God). When He comes to set everything right, they will be around to see it (94:15) and their boast will be all about what He has done (64:10), with ecstatic praise, joyful shouts and wild dancing. These are the upright in heart.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Heart of Transgression

Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart;
There is no fear of God before his eyes.
(Psalm 36:1 English Standard Version)
David casts this psalm in four parts. The first (vv. 1-4) is about the motivations of the wicked. The Hebrew for the first line of the first verse is somewhat difficult to translate and there is a bit of variation among the existing Hebrew manuscripts. Consequently, there is a divergence among various translations: The NASB, the Amplified Bible, and the ESV render it like the above. The NIV, the HCSB and the NKJV translate it along this line: “An oracle in my heart concerning the wicked …” (NKJV).

Which ever translation is correct, the truth remains: Transgression is a matter of the heart. Neither God nor His precepts, nor anything external to a man cause make him to sin.
Let no one say when he is temped, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is draw away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. (James 1:13-15)
Nor can satan make a man sin, for no one could be tempted to do evil unless the desire was already present deep in his heart. Why is the desire for evil so deeply embedded in the heart of the wicked? Because he has no fear of God before his eyes.

The fear of God is regard for God and His ways, respect for the one who made heaven and earth. It is the recognition that life and everything good comes from Him, and that we were created to know and fellowship with Him. It is the dread of missing out on God, the source of all life and goodness.

Our eyes were meant to be full of God, to behold the splendor of His glory. But the eyes of the wicked are too full of himself to see anything beyond himself. He flatters himself too much to understood what is good and hate what is evil, much less to identify and turn from his twisted ways (Psalm 36:2).

The mouth of the wicked is full of malicious lies (v. 3). So also his heart, for as Jesus said, it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34). The wicked is indifferent to wisdom and therefore to doing good — the things that lead to stability, success, beauty and bliss (v. 3). Instead, he lies on his bed at night scheming how he might inflict his hate on others and he is intent upon doing what is evil (v. 4). It consumes him.

David begins this psalm very darkly. However, his focus is not on wicked men working evil deeds. They are merely a source of trouble he has identified. He does not allow them to eclipse his view of life. Now, having described the problem, he turns to the solution. The existence of wicked men and evil deeds in the world is a fact of life, at least for now. However, there is a greater truth at hand, which will ultimately prevail: The faithful love of God. That is what the rest of this psalm is about.

The faithful love of God is more powerful than the heart of transgression and the evil deeds of the wicked.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Discerning a Heart of Faith

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrew 4:12)
This verse is often quoted out of the blue, as if it were not related to a context. But the word “for” at the beginning of this verse alerts us to the fact that it is connected to the idea of the previous verse: “Be diligent to enter that rest.” The “rest” in view is the rest God has for His people. In the larger context, the author illustrates his point by reminding us that the children of Israel died in the wilderness instead of enjoying the Promised Land, the rest God had prepared for them.

What does this have to do with the Word of God being living and powerful and discerning the thoughts and intents of the heart? Everything. Because it has to do with faith. The children of Israel did not enter God’s rest because of their unbelief, even though God had promised He was giving the land to them.

It is not that they were unable to believe. No, they were unwilling to believe. Had they been willing, they would have been able because faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Every promise of God carries with it the faith to believe that promise. The children of Israel heard the promise but they did not give any room for faith to arise in them to believe it. The word of promise tested them and found they had rejected faith.

The Word of God offers us many wonderful promises and gives us the faith to believe. But it also probes us with surgical precision to see whether we will lay hold of that faith. There is no fooling God. He discerns the thoughts and intents of our hearts to see whether we are willing to believe Him.

In the wilderness, God promised the children of Israel that He was giving them the land of Canaan, and that promise tested them: Were they willing to believe God above all else? Would they believe the truth of His Word more than the facts of their current circumstances? More than the giants in the land? More than their own eyes?

As we know, out of all that generation, only Joshua and Caleb choose to believe God. They were not unaware of the circumstances, and they had certainly seen the giants in the land, just as the other spies had. But they understood that the truth of God’s promise was far greater than what they experienced with their senses. As the author of Hebrews tells us, “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible” (Hebrews 11:3). The greater reality is not that which can be seen or felt but is apprehended by faith. That is why Paul teaches us, “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).

The same Word of God by which faith comes also discerns our hearts. It cuts through all our rationalizations to reveal whether we are willing to believe the promise of God. Those who are willing enter into His rest.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Kingdom of Authentic Living

Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. (Matthew 6:1)
The earliest Greek manuscripts do not have the word for “charitable deeds” here, but the word for “righteousness.” That is why the NASB translates this as “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them.” The word for “to be seen,” is an interesting on in this context. It is the verb theaomai. As a noun form, it is theatron, which is where we get the English word “theatre.”

This verse serves as an introduction for the next three sections regarding the acts of charity, prayer and fasting. In each section, Jesus warns us not to be like the “hypocrites.” The Greek word is hypokrites and literally refers to actors, those who pretend, play a part, and wear a mask. The venue for actors, of course, is the theatre, where they can be put on display to “wow” the audience.

Jesus is speaking to the motivations of the heart. Giving alms, prayer and fasting were basic acts of Jewish piety, and were to be encouraged. But they were not ends in themselves, and were not to be performed with great outward display, but simply and sincerely, from the heart.

For those who wanted to make a show of their piety, to be seen by men for their deeds, such display would be all the reward they would receive — empty and fleeting fame. There would be no reward for them with God, who does not look only at the outward appearance, but upon the heart.

The kingdom of heaven on earth requires authentic living.



The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth
Keys to the Kingdom of God
in the Gospel of Matthew

by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Friday, October 19, 2007

A Heart That Freely Loves

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)
In the previous section Jesus talked about the payback of justice; in this section He talks about the payback of love. But just as in the previous section He called for a heart that goes beyond trading of injury with penalty, in this section He calls for a heart that goes beyond love as a tit for tat proposition.

The commandment to love your neighbor (Leviticus 19:18) says nothing about hating your enemy; that was incorrectly inferred from the text by rabbinical tradition. Jesus blasts that out of the water by teaching us to love even our enemies, to bless even those who curse us, to do good even to those who hate us, and pray even for those who spitefully use us. This is the way of our Father in heaven, and therefore the way of the kingdom of heaven on earth.

Fallen human nature always desires to reciprocate; to hate those who hate us, curse those who curse us, persecute those who persecute us. And it is relatively easy to love those who love us, bless those who bless us and do good to those who do good to us. But Jesus teaches us to put away the scorecard — our job is not to go around evening things up. He calls us instead to do something radically different, out of balance, and even unfair — to love those who are our enemies.

This is the way of our Father in heaven, who graciously allows the blessings of sunshine and rain to fall on both the just and the unjust. For God is love, and it is the nature of love to given and to serve. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). It is the way of perfection, that is, of coming in maturity and completeness, fulfilling the purpose of the Father in bringing us into His family.

The way of the kingdom of heaven on earth is a heart that freely loves.



The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth
Keys to the Kingdom of God
in the Gospel of Matthew

by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Heart Free of Vengeance

You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. (Matthew 5:38-42)
The Law of Moses allowed, in cases of injury or loss, for a penalty to be applied in proportion to the injury or loss (see Exodus 21:23-25). For example, a man who lost an eye because of the unjust action of another had a right to receive amends or compensation for the loss of that eye, but not in excess of that eye. Or, a man who similarly lost a tooth had a right to be compensated for the loss of that tooth, but not as if he had lost a mouthful of teeth. This principle, known as lex talionis (the “law of retaliation”), is the basis for the modern tort system, in which a person may sue to be compensated for wrongful loss or damage.

That is the outward working of the law, but here Jesus is going beyond what is required to address the inward attitude of the heart. His comments must be understood in this context. For example, when He tells us not to resist an evil person, He is not saying that we should never defend ourselves or our families against harm, and He is certainly not suggesting that a community or state should ever accept evil. Nor is He teaching that we should not oppose sin, moral evil or the devil. Rather, the “evil person” is the one who has wrongfully injured us — we are not to take it upon ourselves to exact vengeance.

“Turn to him the other [cheek] also,” does not mean that we should not seek to get ourselves out of abusive situations, or that we must endlessly put up with insult. Rather, we should not be easily provoked, but patient in endurance, slow to anger. In context, it means that we should not be quick to take the offender to court.

“If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also.” Don’t be quick to sue someone else. But what if someone wants to sue you? Seek a better solution. Ligation often brings our anger and bitterness in people. It is better to settle with your opponent, even at a loss, rather than lose your joy, peace of mind, and the perspective of love.

Notice that there is a subtle shift here. The Law allows for retaliation; Jesus teaches that we should be more ready to give beyond what is required than to extract all that is allowed. "Whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.” As Matthew Henry commented about this passage, “The law of retaliation must be made consistent with the law of love.” Paul catches the spirit of this well:
Do not repay evil for evil. (Romans 12:17)

Do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath [i.e., let God take care of it]; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. (Romans 12:19)

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21)
More will be accomplished by love than by litigation, and by a generous spirit than by a heart full of vengeance.

The kingdom of heaven on earth requires a generous heart that is free of vengeance.



The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth
Keys to the Kingdom of God
in the Gospel of Matthew

by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Honesty in the Heart

Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.” But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God's throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your “Yes” be “Yes,” and your “No,” “No.” For whatever is more than these is from the evil one. (Matthew 5:33-37)
This section has do with the Third Commandment, “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not him guiltless who takes His name in vain” (Exodus 20:7); and the Ninth, “You shall not bear false witness” (Exodus 20:16).

It was commonly understood that vows made to God and oaths made in the name of the Lord could not be broken. But another understanding had also developed that one could swear by lesser things, such as by heaven, or earth, or Jerusalem, or the Temple, or the altar, and such oaths were not as binding. We see examples of this toward the end of Matthew’s Gospel, where Jesus rebukes the Scribes and Pharisees for this very practice.
Woe to you, blind guides, who say, “Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it.” Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that sanctifies the gold?

And, “Whoever swears by the altar, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gift that is on it, he is obliged to perform it.” Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifies the gift?

Therefore he who swears by the altar, swears by it and by all things on it. He who swears by the temple, swears by it and by Him who dwells in it. And he who swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by Him who sits on it. (Matthew 23:16-22)
In both places, Jesus makes the point that if you swear by whatever belongs to God, you are swearing by God Himself, so the oaths are just as binding, and whoever breaks them will be just as guilty. One cannot swear even by one’s own head without swearing by God, for we cannot naturally make one hair on our head turn black or white — that is a function of aging, and therefore in God’s hands.

Jesus does away completely with the system of false swearing and making oaths on supposedly lesser things. It was never really anything more than a tactic to leave room for a lie when the truth became too inconvenient. So here again was the attempt to keep the commandments outwardly, but not with the whole heart.

Jesus’ solution is simple: Let your yes be yes and your no be no. In other words, give an honest answer. Say what you mean and mean what you say. That will not only fulfill the commandment, but also God’s purpose in the commandment. It is the only honest way; anything more than that comes from the evil one, who is the “father of lies” (John 8:44).

The kingdom of heaven on earth requires honesty in the heart.



The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth
Keys to the Kingdom of God
in the Gospel of Matthew

by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Faithfulness in the Heart

You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:27-28)
Now Jesus is dealing with the Seventh Commandment. In the divine purpose it is about more than simply refraining from the physical act of adultery; it is about faithfulness in the heart. The heart is not only the center of the emotions, but also of the intellect and the will. That is why Jesus speaks of intent: “Whoever looks at a woman to lust for her.” The problem is not that stray thoughts slip through, but that they are entertained. As someone has said, you cannot stop a bird from flying over your head, but you can keep it from building a nest in your hair. When a man or woman looks with intent and gives way to lust, they have broken the commandment of God, committing adultery in their heart.
If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. (Matthew 5:29-30)
The Greek word for “offend” is skandalizo and refers to that which would ensnare you or become a stumbling block that causes you to fall into sin. Jesus is not counseling that one should literally gouge out his eye or cut off his hand. The eye and the hand do not act independently of the heart; to remove them would not solve anything. The point is that one must be diligent to deal with the problem at the root, however painful it may be. We must deal with the heart and its affections, and that is often the more difficult thing to do, which goes to show how much we need God.
Furthermore it has been said, “Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.” But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery. (Matthew 5:31-32)
There was a school of Rabbinic thought which allowed a man to divorce his wife for virtually any reason at all. In Jesus’ eyes, that was no better than committing adultery, for there is no love or commitment in that, no faithfulness of the heart. That is always what God is looking for — the faithful disposition of the heart.

The kingdom of heaven on earth requires faithfulness in the heart.



The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth
Keys to the Kingdom of God
in the Gospel of Matthew

by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Kingdom of the Heart

In Matthew 5:21-48, Jesus deals with the kingdom of the heart. He comes, not to destroy the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfill them (v. 17-81). Even the “least” of the commandments are important to God (v. 19) — I believe that is because they reveal the heart. The righteousness required by the kingdom of heaven is one that must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees (v. 20). It is more than external acts; it requires the whole heart set on God.

In the balance of chapter 5, Jesus digs deeper and shows that mere outward obedience to the Law is not enough. The sections are introduced with this formula: “You have heard that it was said … But I say to you …” He applies it first to the Sixth Commandment.

Murder in the heart
You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.” But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, “Raca!” shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, “You fool!” shall be in danger of hell fire. (Matthew 5:21-22)
The Pharisees kept the Sixth Commandment by refraining from physically murdering others. But the purpose of God goes deeper, as Jesus shows: If one is angry with his brother without cause, he is leaving himself open to divine judgment; even more so when, in his anger, he calls his brother unjust names (words are very important in the economy of God, for He created the world by His words). It is good that the angry man does not actually kill his brother, but the root of the unjust anger in his heart must be dealt with.

Jesus presses the matter even further:
Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny. (Matthew 5:23-26)
Jesus is still dealing with the divine implications of the Sixth Commandment. His point is that harmonious relationships among brothers is more important even than acts of worship. It is better to first go and be reconciled with each other, and then bring our gifts to God. The adversarial relationship in a court case provides another example: It is better to settle disputes quickly, instead of “killing” each other in court.

Murder begins in the heart, and we have many ways we unjustly “kill” each other. These must all be resolved if we are going to experience the kingdom of heaven on earth, for at the deepest level, it is a kingdom of the heart.



The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth
Keys to the Kingdom of God
in the Gospel of Matthew

by Jeff Doles

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Prayer and a Heart Without Doubt

Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in sight and this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment. (1 John 3:21-23)
The secret to a prayer without a doubt is a heart that does not condemn. To condemn means to find fault with, or holding something against someone. If your heart is finding fault with you or holding something against you, it can wreck the boldness and assurance with which you approach God. But if your heart is clear, your confidence will be strong.

So what is John talking about here? If our heart does not condemn us — about what? It is about keeping the commandments of God, and according to John, that comes down to two things: Believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and love one another.

1. Believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ

The apostle Paul declared, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). If you have received the Lord Jesus, there is no sentence of judgment that rests on you—Jesus took that in your place. God does not condemn you!

2. Love one another

This is the commandment Jesus gave to John and the other disciples on the night He instituted the Lord’s Supper. “A new commandment I give to you that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34).

Failure to love wrecks our confidence towards God because it shifts our focus off of God and onto ourselves. God showed His love to us through Jesus Christ, and He intends for that love to overflow to others through us. When we share that love freely with others, we are allowing God’s love to flow through us. But when we withhold that love from others, God does not withhold His love from us, but we stop the flow of His love from having its way in our lives. Then when the devil comes and whispers his accusations, our hearts begin to believe them.

Now, watch as James shows how failure to love can twist your prayer life and spoil your confidence towards God:
Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. (James 4:1-3)
Clearly, this is not loving one another. It is self-centeredness. Prayer is not about our own pleasures but about God’s purpose, and His purpose is to love, because God is love (1 John 4:8).

Prayer is a very powerful thing. Jesus promised, “Whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them” (Mark 11:24). But then He added, “And whenever you stand praying if you have anything against anyone, forgive him” (v. 25). As powerful as prayer is, if we are unwilling to love one another by forgiving one another, it will seriously hinder our faith and keep us from receiving what we have asked. For as Paul concluded, faith works through love (Galatians 5:6).

A Heart That Does Not Condemn

The declaration of Scripture is that there is no condemnation for those who have received the Lord Jesus Christ. God does not condemn us, but sometimes our heart does, especially when we know that we have not been walking in love toward God and each other. But there is a ready solution at hand, and it is found in Jesus Christ. As John said, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

To confess means to agree with God about it, that it is wrong and does not belong in our lives. When we do that, God promises, not only to forgive us our sins, but to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, that is, to deal with sin in our lives and lead us into victory over them. Then we are free to love as we have been loved by God, and our heart will find anything against us.

Oh, the devil may still come and whisper in your ear, making accusations against you, and try to set your heart in confusion. But you don’t have to listen to him. Instead, you can take the promises of God and say:
“I have received the Lord Jesus Christ, and there is now no condemnation for me, because I am in Him.”
If there is any sin in your life, or if you have not been walking in love, confess it to God, and trust Him to forgive you and to remove it from your life. You can always God boldly to God, for He has promised.
Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)
When our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God, and we can know that whatever we ask of Him, we will receive, because we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and walk in love toward each, loving our neighbor as ourselves. Then the power of prayer and faith are released in a mighty way.

(See also, Outspokenness Toward God)

Thursday, July 28, 2005

The Weaned, Quieted Heart

LORD, my heart is not haughty,
  Nor my eyes lofty.
Neither do I concern myself with great matters,
  Nor with things too profound for me.

Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul,
  Like a weaned child with his mother;
  Like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, hope in the LORD
  From this time forth and forever.
(Psalm 131)
This is called “growing up” in the LORD. Paul said, “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God” (Romans 8:14). He is not talking about “children” in the Lord, but about “sons,” that is, those who have come to a place of maturity in their relationship with God.

It has nothing to do with chronology. There are many who are old in years but still children in the Lord — they just never grew up. On the other hand, there are those who are very young in years but who know how to be led by the Spirit of God — they are the mature sons Paul is talking about. (It is not about male and female either. If men can be the “bride” of Christ, women can be the “sons” of God.) In Psalm 131, David shows what that maturity looks like:
My heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty.
There is no pride or arrogance, no unjust assumptions about what we see with the eyes (for our eyes can easily deceive us).
Nor do I concern myself with great matters, nor with things too profound for me.
We don’t have to figure everything out with our reasoning. The Bible says, “Trust in the LORD with all you heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

There are things too profound for our own understanding. God’s ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:11), but God sent His Word and His Spirit so that we could operate according to His ways and thoughts. Paul said,

But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10)

That’s why it is important for our maturity to be led by the Holy Spirit, for He searches and reveals the things that are too profound for us.
Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul,
Like a weaned child with his mother;
Like a weaned child is my soul within me.
This maturity is about relationship, not about reasoning. The weaned child is calm and quiet with his mother, not because he has figured everything out, but because he has learned to trust his mother, that she loves him and will take care of him.

Notice that this is a decision we must make. God cannot calm and quiet our soul if we are not willing. We must choose to trust Him, then the peace of God comes and we know that all shall be well. One way to begin is simply by saying, whatever the circumstance, “God, I choose to trust You.” Say it often, at every turn in the road. Instruct your soul with this and let it become big inside you.
O Israel, hope in the LORD
From this time forth and forever.
This is David’s conclusion, his kingly counsel to the people of God. To “hope” means to trust, with a positive expectation, a joyful anticipation.

When we have our expectation in God, there is no haughtiness or arrogance, because now we know that it is all about Him and not about us. This is our “standard operating procedure” from now on.

Set your trust, your hope, your expectation upon God in all things — now and forever. Let the Spirit of God search the deep things of God and reveal them to you (simply ask Him, and the Word of God will “come alive” for you). Learn to hear His voice and be led by Him. Then you will move forward in your life in calmness, quietness and confidence.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Breakthrough of a Broken Heart

There is an old Jewish proverb that says, “The teacher cannot place the truth in the heart of his student. He can only place it on top, so that when the heart breaks, the truth will fall in.”

There are things that God wants to do in our hearts, but He will not force His way in to do them. Yes, He is the healer of the brokenhearted, but sometimes a heart cannot be healed until it is broken. Then we are ready to let the Lord come and do a work in us.

There are things that I have been crying out to God for, and this morning my heart has been breaking over something I have been reading. It is not tragic things I have been reading about, but some very good things — ways that God is using people to bless others. My heart is bursting because I very much want to be a part of it — to hear the voice of God in such a powerful way, and to declare it boldly, that many will be blessed by the revealing of their heart before God and turn to Him.

One of the touchstone verses of my life has been this:
The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of disciples,
  That I may now how to sustain the weary one with a word.
He awakens me morning by morning,
  He awakens my ear to listen as a disciple.
(Isaiah 50:4 NIV)
That is what my heart cries out for this morning.

Sometimes the breakthrough we need the most is the breaking of our hearts.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Opening Your Heart to the Voice of God

He is our God,
And we are the people of His pasture,
And the sheep of His hand.
Today, if you will hear His voice,
Do not harden your heart.
(Psalm 95:7-8)
The LORD is our God, but He is also our Shepherd. David brought this out very well in Psalm 23. In the New Testament, we see Jesus declaring, “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Then He says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).

Notice that in Psalm 95, after calling us the “sheep of His hand,” there is an invitation, “Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your heart.”

Now, notice that the vehicle for hearing the voice of the Shepherd is not the ear, but the heart. Jesus said a number of times, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear,” but He was not talking about the flaps on the sides of our heads, He was talking about our hearts.

If you want to hear the voice of the Lord, you must open your heart — the core of your being — to receive His Word. Faith comes from hearing the Word, and will be followed up by willing obedience. As James said, “Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22). Hearing without obedience is a deception, a hardness of heart.

Our hearts have long been discipled by the world, conditioned to be hard toward the voice of God. But God has given the Holy Spirit as an anointing oil to soften up the hardened heart.

Perhaps you are thinking, “It’s too late. My heart is already too hard to hear. What’s the use?” But I tell you there is something you can do. You can go to the Lord, whatever your condition, confess your heart to Him and ask Him to change it:
  • Father, my heart is hard toward You, but I want to hear Your voice. Please soften my heart.
  • Father, my heart does not even want to obey You, but please come and open my heart to Your words, and give me a heart of joyful obedience.
  • Father, there are things in my life I want to hold on to, even though they keep me from You. But come and change the desires of my heart to line up with Yours.
God will not turn you away. He is ready to come and do a powerful work in your heart and change your life for the better. Listen to His promise:
I know the thoughts that I think toward you, say the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the LORD and I will bring you back from your captivity. (Jeremiah 29:11-14)
Open your heart to the LORD and you will hear His voice. He will reveal His heart to you and bring you into the blessing He has prepared for you all along.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled

Simon Peter said to Him, "Lord, where are You going?"

Jesus answered him, "Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward."

Peter said to Him, "Lord, why can I not follow You now? I will lay down my life for Your sake."

Jesus answered him, "Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times. Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me."
(John 13:36-14:1)
At the darkest hour, and with Peter's coming betrayal revealed to him, Peter hears these words from the Lord Jesus, "Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me."

Every sin is a betrayal of the Lord Jesus, but He tells us, "Let not your heart be troubled." His ability to deal with the darkness of our heart is much greater than the darkness itself. He gives us the promise of forgiveness and cleansing (1 John 1:9). So we can confess our heart to the Lord (He will not be shocked — He already knows what is in it), let Him take care of it, and move on in the joy of the LORD.

Friday, July 8, 2005

The Luxuriant, Pliable Heart

Delight yourself also in the LORD
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
(Psalm 37:4)
When David says to delight yourself also in the LORD, he does not mean in addition to whatever else you happen to be delighting yourself in. Rather, he means in addition to what he said in verses 1 through 3:
  • Don’t fret because of evildoers — they will soon be cut down like grass.
  • Don’t be envious of the workers of iniquity — they will soon wither as the green herb.
  • Trust in the LORD.
  • Do good.
  • Dwell in the land (don’t get antsy).
  • Feed on His faithfulness.
Then he says, delight yourself also in the LORD. The Hebrew word for “delight” means to be soft and pliable toward, and to luxuriate in. Let your heart be soft and pliable toward the Lord. Enjoy the rich experience being with Him. The Westminster Catechism teaches us that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

I have discovered that the more I delight myself in the LORD, the more I receive the desires of my heart. I see this first in that, the more I spend my life with God, the more I desire of Him. Then He grants that which I desire the most.

The more I fellowship with God, the more I realize that I don’t want God to get involved in what I’m doing, I want to get involved in what He’s doing. My thoughts and my ways are meager, weak, ineffective, stale — and I’m tired of them.

Letting go of my own thoughts and my own ways, I am now free to embrace God’s thoughts and God’s ways. They are limitless, continually fresh and new each day. They are world-changing, because they are the reason the world came into being in the first place.

God freely offers us His thoughts and His ways—through His Word and through His Spirit. Jesus came to reconcile us to the Father so we could fellowship with Him, think His thoughts and walk in His ways. Open yourself up to Him and let Him change your heart. Let Him fill your life with things that will truly delight you.

In Psalm 36, David said of those who trust in the LORD, “They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of your house, and You give them drink from the river of your pleasures.”

This could be you.

Start praying this psalm back to the LORD:

Dear Lord, I do not fret because of evildoers and I do not envy the workers of iniquity — they shall not last. But I trust in You, and so I will do what is good. I will dwell in the land and not be afraid. I will feed on Your faithfulness. I will also delight myself in You — luxuriating in Your thoughts and walking in Your ways. I will be pliable towards you, and I invite you to come and change my heart. I thank You for the Lord Jesus Christ, who died and rose again so that I could have this wonderful relationship with You. I thank You for the Holy Spirit, who gives me new birth through faith in Jesus Christ and reveals Your heart to my heart. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Connected, Expectant Heart

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
And in His Word I do hope.
(Psalm 130:5)
Faith and patience. That is what the psalm writer is talking about here. It is what keeps him connected with the LORD. For the Hebrew word for “wait,” qavah, literally means to bind together, to connect with. Think of a cord stretched from your heart to the heart of God. The distance in between is the distance between “Amen” and “There it is!” It is patient expectation, waiting in anticipation for the Lord to show up on your behalf. It is waiting in faith.

The psalm writer has faith because the Lord has spoken His Word. Without the Word, there is no faith, for faith comes by hearing the Word (Romans 10:17). If the Lord had not spoken, if there had been no promise, then there would be no reason to wait, no right to expect. But the Lord has spoken, and so the psalm writer confidently declares, “In His Word I do hope.”

The word “hope” is not a word of doubt (“I hope so, but I don’t know”). Rather, it too is a word expressing expectation. God has spoken, so I have expectation. Why? Because the Word of the Lord will never return empty-handed. It will always accomplish what He has said (Isaiah 55:11).

The Hebrew word for “word” is dabar. It is not a passive thing, but active. That is, it accomplishes things. When God speaks His dabar, things happen. God said, “Light, be!” and light immediately came into existence.

The psalm writer might have chosen to let the circumstances of his life establish what his expectations were going to be. But instead, he turned to the Lord, and to the Lord only. And so there was calmness in his soul.

Is your heart connected to the heart of God? Are you trusting in Him? Does His Word set up an expectation in your heart? Rest on His promises. He has spoken His promises and already set things in motion. It is only a matter of time until they appear. So do not give up, but stay ready and watch in eager anticipation.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

The Established, Fearless Heart

He will not be afraid of evil tidings;
  His heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD.
His heart is established
  He will not be afraid,
  Until he sees his desire upon his enemies.
(Psalm 112:7-8)
Just who is the psalm writer talking about, anyway? Whoever trusts in the Lord. We see this in verse 1:

Blessed is the man who fears the LORD,
who delights greatly in His commandments.
Now, the heart is the core of your being, the center of who you are. Is your heart restless and unsettled? Is it fearful or confused? The fear of the LORD will establish your heart, that is, bring stability, rest and peace to the center of your being.

What is the fear of the LORD? It is not the fear that comes from the world, a fear that torments. The fear of the LORD is to live in absolute awe of Him, to love what He loves and hate what He hates, to treasure His favor above all things and avoid His displeasure at all costs, to take pleasure in His Word, His will, His ways and His works and honor them in everything you do. It is to love and trust Him. This is the fear that sets you free.

When your heart is centered on the Lord, it is established by Him, and nothing can disturb your peace. Bad news may surround you, but you will not be afraid of it, unless you release your focus.

Peter walked on water, even through stormy wind and waves, as long as he kept his focus on Jesus. When he let the surrounding circumstances fill his eyes, his thoughts and his heart, he immediately began to sink. When he cried out to Jesus, letting Him become the focus again, he was lifted up again.

You see, the problem is not about the evil tidings that continually crop up around us. Those have been around ever since the Fall. The real problem is the orientation of the heart. Settle your heart completely on the Lord, which is a matter of loving and trusting Him, and you can settle the matter of fear. Oh, there may be demonic influences attached to your fear, no doubt. But these are actually undermined by love and faith, and a simple word of command will dismiss them.

Perfected love — the intimate relationship with God where His love and peace rule and reign in you heart—casts out fear.

God is calling you to love and trust Him for all He’s worth (which is infinite). That’s why Jesus came, to reconcile you to the Father. When you receive new life in Him, through faith in Jesus Christ, and let the heart of the Father settle into your heart, filling it to overflowing, there will be no room for fear. Your heart will be established in Him.

Tuesday, June 7, 2005

Let Not Your Heart Be Slammed

Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. (John 14:1)
There are no chapter breaks in the original text. These were added later by translators as a reference help, but sometimes they get in the way and obscure the message. So let’s back up a few verses to discover the context.
Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are you going?”

Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward.”

Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow You now? I will lay down my life for Your sake.”

Jesus answered Him, “Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times. Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me”
(John 13:36-14:1).
Jesus was about to be handed over for an unjust trial, abuse, severe flogging and finally, crucifixion. He was betrayed by Judas. But He also knew that Peter would betray Him by denial — He even prophesied to Peter about this.

But in that same moment He said, to Peter and all the others, “Let not your heart be troubled.” On this, the darkest night of His life (and the darkest time for His disciples, as well), He speaks a powerful word of comfort and hope.

The Greek word for “trouble” here is tarraso. It means to be stirred up, agitated, and disturbed, to lose calmness, be disquieted and made restless, to be stricken with fear and dread, and perplexed with doubt. In other words, Jesus was saying, “Don’t let your heart be slammed!”

It does not matter what your circumstances are. It does not matter what your failures have been. Don’t let them slam into you and send you into despair. Don’t let them overwhelm your heart and fill you with doubt and fear.

But that is only half the prescription. The other half is even more important:
Believe in God, believe also in Me.
The Greek word for “believe” is pisteuo. It is the verb form of pistis, the word for “faith.” It is dynamic — faith in action.

Our natural tendency is to keep focusing on our circumstances and our failures. That’s just the way the enemy wants it, so he keeps whispering those things in our ears. But Jesus wants us to direct our attention to Him, because He has destroyed the works of the devil and taken care of everything that pertains to our wholeness and peace. All we need to do is to exercise our faith and trust fully in Him.
  • To Martha, Jesus said, “Don’t let your heart be crowded — focus your heart on Me” (Luke 10, rough paraphrase).
  • To Peter, Jesus said, “Don’t let your heart be slammed — focus your faith on Me” (rough paraphrase).
Don’t be distracted and discouraged by your situation, however dark it may now seem. Don’t let your past sins, failures or mistakes steal your attention away from Jesus. Focus your faith on the solution — Jesus — not the problem. Let not your heart be troubled.

Monday, June 6, 2005

Is Your House Crowded?

And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.” (Luke 10:41)
You remember the story of Mary and Martha and the day Jesus came to their house. Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus as a disciple (which was a very brazen thing for that time and place).

Meanwhile, Martha was banging around the house, “distracted with much serving” (Luke 10:40). The Greek word for “distract” literally means to “drag all around.” Picture her with many implements of service, dragging them all about her house. She let herself become distracted from the glory of Jesus’ presence and become encumbered with other things.

Finally, Martha was upset enough that she went to Jesus and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me” (v. 40).

That’s when Jesus answered and said, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.” To be worried means to be anxious about something, to focus attention on something with anxiety. Have you ever noticed that you cannot be worried about something without focusing your attention on it?

Not only was Martha anxiously focusing her attention on many things, but she was also “troubled.” The Greek word here, turbazo, literally means “crowded.” Martha was focused on so many things that she was filled with anxiety and her thoughts were crowded. No wonder she was overwhelmed.

All the while, the answer to her problem was sitting quietly before her, untroubled and at peace. Jesus was there in her midst. Mary had already tumbled onto the secret of quietness. Jesus said, “But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her” (v. 42).

The house of Martha’s soul was crowded with many things; Mary chose the one thing that was needed. Martha was focused on the worry of many things; Mary was focused on the presence of Jesus.

Nine centuries earlier, David was surrounded by enemies and foes. An army was encamped against him from without, and adversaries were breathing out threats and violence and false reports (that might have been from within his camp).

David could easily have let himself become overwhelmed, and perhaps for a time he was. But he did not let the house of his soul remain crowded. He sharpened his focus. “One thing I have desired of the LORD, that will I seek” (Psalm 27:4).

In the midst of all this turmoil, what do you suppose was the one thing David desired?
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in His temple.
That was all he needed, all he wanted — to dwell in the house of the LORD and behold His beauty. All questions would be answered there. For the house of the LORD is spacious and bountiful, and not crowded at all.

Is your house crowded? Are you full of anxiety? It is because you are focused on many things, and only one thing is needed. If you will turn you attention to Jesus and dwell in His presence, you will be choosing the good portion, and it will not be taken from you — and the LORD your Shepherd will take care of you.