I have been thinking about purity of heart and a few scriptures have come to my mind.

Matthew 5:8 — “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

Psalm 24:3,4 — “Who may ascend the hill of the Lord?  Who may stand in His holy place?  He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.”

Psalm 51:10 — “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”

I believe that purity is related to holiness.  Hebrews 12:14 says  “. . . without holiness no one will see the Lord.”

Someone who is pure in heart is a person whose thoughts and motives are blameless,  someone who does not just do right things but who is also far from anything that defiles.

I also think of a pure diamond: when it is clean and pure, it can reflect light and cast around all kinds of color.  When we are pure, then the light of God, when it shines on us, will be reflected in us and shine forth and all will see it and glorify the Lord.

The Love of the Lord

The book of Revelations starts with messages to seven churches.   And the very first message really touched my heart.   It was to the church of Ephesus.

It said, “I know your deeds, your hard work and perseverance.   I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.  You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.  Yet I hold this against you:  You have forsaken your first love.  Remember the height from which you have fallen!  Repent and do the things you did at first.” (Rev. 2:2-5a)

As I was reading this I could almost see the Lord saying these things.  And I imagine how lovingly He said it.  The Lord says:  I know everything.   I see your tears and your sufferings.  I see your efforts.  I know life is not easy for you.   I know the things you have to go through to still go on.  I know it all, and I suffer with you and feel all the pain that you have.  But let Me help you. Remember the way you loved Me when you first met Me?  Remember the time of your first love to Me, when everything was so simple, when there was nothing you would not do for Me?   Remember the joy we have shared?  Please, don’t walk away from it.

To me it seems that the Lord is more concerned for our love to Him.   He knows everything we face, and He knows how hard our lives are.  And He is there to help us through, to lead us and encourage us.

But then He looks us right into the eyes and says:  Please, could you just love Me the way you did it first?   Could you again do the things you did first?  I love you.

This life is not easy for us; we do have to endure many things.  And it would seem funny that the Lord asks us not to forsake our first love.  I don’t really know how to say it; the Lord does not rebuke us for doing all those things, He encourages us to go on.  But He knows the right way to go on.  And this is the way of love.  Love should tell us what to do.  If we don’t have love, everything else is not important.  The Lord gently tells us:  Come back to your first love, this is the only way to continue.

“Come Children, listen to me.” Psalm 34

“The Lord is near the broken hearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

This Psalm begins with a statement of praise to the Lord. In verse 4 we see why David will continuously praise God: “I sought the Lord, and He answered me.” This is a primary theme of this Psalm: seeking God, being answered by God, and taking refuge in Him. Verse 6 is especially sweet; a poor, afflicted man cries out and the Lord hears.

God is near the broken hearted. He hears the cries of those who are crushed in Spirit. This Psalm teaches some lessons on how to live life, but it primarily teaches us about the character of God. God is not far off, he is not uninterested in the dealings of man. He is attentive. He listens to the cries of the brokenhearted. Jesus walked the streets of this world and turned His ear to the cries of the lepers, the blind, the ill, the sinners. In heaven, the Father turns His ear to the cries of the afflicted ones. The Lord is a deliverer. He is a redeemer.

Sinful man will depend upon his own resources, build his own refuge, exert his will and not look to heaven. This is vanity. God knows that we are weak and vulnerable–even the strongest of men will not be able to stand against the strength of sin. The proud will not be close to God; only the humble and those who know they are weak will cry out and be answered. To be close to the Lord means that we have to die a death, to admit our weakness, our sin, to put aside pride.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.” We should take active steps to pursue the goodness of God. Confession, prayer, crying out to the Lord, meditation, silence. The activity of being humble prepares the way for the Lord’s answer. “Seek and you shall find.”

“Come Children, listen to me.”

David says that he will teach us the fear of the Lord. Perhaps better stated as reverential awe, Jesus himself tells us to fear the Lord. Why? Because God has the ability to not only destroy our bodies, but also to cast our souls into hell. Jesus then says we are not to fear the Lord–a challenging teaching: to fear and yet not to fear. Yet it is true. Those who seek Him will find that He is a refuge, not a court of condemnation. God protects the humble from His power to bring swift and inescapable punishment which will come to the proud. We either fear men, or we fear the Lord–we are more concerned about what people think of us, or we consider the Lord’s ways as being primary.

How does David teach us? His instructions are simple. Keep your tongue from evil, don’t deceive, flee from evil, do good, seek and pursue peace. How rarely we do these things.

To control the tongue is one of the hardest commands. American culture especially, with emphasis on freedom of speech and with a very ironic, mocking sense of humor, encourages us to speak whatever we feel. But God instructs us to watch our words, to be very careful in what we say. It is possible to speak something that is true but to speak in an evil way. If my enemy has wronged me, I can tell a brother the truth of the matter, but say it in a way that harms my enemy in my brother’s eyes. The Lord says I am to bless my enemies, to pray for those who curse me. All the more so, I should not speak a truth about my brother in an evil way. I should speak only blessing and be cautious, considerate when speaking. Silence can be golden, especially when I have “every right” to speak a harsh truth. So, let us not speak truth in a way that is evil.

Deceit is different, yet involves controlling the tongue: speaking in a way that would hide the truth is speaking in an evil way. The Lord says that we are to let our Yes be Yes, and our No, No. Anything beyond this comes from the evil one. This is a simple teaching that causes tremendous turbulence when put into practice. The world conspires to have us say half truths, to cover the truth for our own convenience. This comes from the evil one. May the Lord give me the strength to tell the truth. Refusing to deceive is costly, for it means being vulnerable and controlling one’s natural tendency to deceive–and then trusting the Lord with the outcome of our honesty.

Seeking peace: The Word says that the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace; blessed are the peacemakers. Peace is not found, it is made; we do not happen upon peace, we make peace. Peace is made by people with it’s source in the Lord’s love, it does not occur naturally in the course of human endeavors. As much as we are able, we are to live at peace with all men. So, we should not be the source of any discord. We should seek, pursue, and make peace in every situation. Even as Jesus’ words cause division by revealing the kingdom of heaven, his role is to make peace between God and man. Jesus did all he could to bring peace to the world, but some men hate the truth and go to war.

Is there discord in your relationships? Make peace. Is there evil in your life that is revealed in disorder and confusion? Make peace. You will be blessed, for you will be called a son of God.

The Cost of Being a Disciple

There is so much that can be said (and has been said) about Luke 14:28ff, but there have been new insights for me as I’ve meditated on the text over several days’ time. Jesus is speaking of the cost of discipleship. Here is found the well-known teaching that one must hate his own life and take up his own cross in order to be a disciple. By way of illustration, Jesus uses two figures: 1) building a tower, and 2) suing for peace with a superior adversary.

It is this second metaphor that has caught my attention recently. “What king, if he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down to take counsel whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand?” Jesus then says that the weaker king will go out to the stronger king and sue for peace before the battle’s begun.

God is the superior King. Who am I to come against Him with the miserable little force at my command? How can I stand against His demand that the whole earth submit to Him? My “army” includes my will, my body, my intellect, my talents, my stamina, my length of days, my wisdom, my creative force. In every area I am at such a disadvantage that I should immediately go to God, while He is a long way off, and ask for His terms of peace. It’s clear that He will be victorious, and if I were to engage Him in this battle for sovereignty, all my energies would be expended, and I would be completely defeated.

So, it’s wisdom to submit myself to Him before the battle rages, before all that I have and all that I am is used up in my futile attempt to win a war against God. Jesus then says, “So therefore, no one of you can be my disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.” Just as a weaker king must completely bow to the will of the victor, and place all his holdings in the other King’s control, so must I ask for terms of peace with God, and give Him complete control over my “army” and holdings–my life. These are His terms of peace: surrender all, everything you have that is valuable to you–wife, children, father, mother, land, even your own soul.

But there is good news, Jesus said that if we leave these things for his sake, we will get back much more in this life and in the life to come. So, in the process of surrendering my holdings to the Lord, I receive more than I surrender. This also happens in wars; the greater king may give authority to the weaker king because of his submission. It shows wisdom, character and understanding to submit in such a situation.

But, and this is very important, I must truly surrender all to Him. I must take up my own cross and die to myself, receiving God’s will for my life. I cannot play a game with God, withholding from Him what I most want to keep to myself; the Lord will not let it stand. He is the one true God. There is no other before Him–not even me. I must surrender all, just as the weaker king must fall before the superior king and be dependent on his will.

God is much smarter than I am. He is much wiser, loving, patient, stronger, and more joyful. It’s good to surrender to such a King.

Guarding Our Hearts

Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life. ~Proverbs 4:23

We all are vulnerable to influences and actions that turn our hearts from goodness and purity. Some come from inside ourselves, and others from outside: keeping bad company, reading newspapers or magazines, a favorite TV show, daydreaming, certain kinds of music, joking around, gossip, cursing, complaining, overeating, arguing, boasting, etc.

Perhaps as you read this, you know what it is that attacks the purity of your heart. Don’t play with this fire. Accept the wisdom of God and turn from that impurity. Remember, the Lord is a refuge. He is the Source of Life.

Our Father in Heaven says be careful, watch over your heart, and be diligent in this. For your heart is the source of who you are. The things that flow from your heart affect your relationship with your Creator and affect the people you love.

The Lord wants us to be pure because He loves us, and because He loves those around us. He wants to bless others through us, and we can prepare ourselves for service by guarding our hearts.

Life flows from your heart, the life that is a blessing to others and is so precious to God.