Tag Archives: Heart

The Practice of Focus

MY sweet husband, in pain, says, “This is the worst day yet,” as he struggles to move. Then he begins thanking me for my care for him. That’s my husband: realize the struggle, but focus on the blessings in the midst of it.

The Apostle Paul of the Holy Bible encourages us to realize the importance of contentment in all circumstances (Philippians 4). One of the greatest aids to contentment when trouble screams for our attention is the practice of focusing on the blessings all around us, being grateful for the good that trouble seeks to rob from us. Learning to see the beauty in life and taking time to smell the roses helps us walk a life of contentment in the midst of pain.

For Joy, Endure

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” ~ Hebrews 12:1-2, NASB.
 
Reading this passage, the fact the Jesus endured the cross “for the joy set before Him” grabs my attention, as it has grabbed me many times before. Jesus took up a cross that truly belongs to such a wretch as I, for the joy it would lead to. As I read this today, three questions come to heart for me to ponder:
 
1. What “joys” might have been on the heart of Jesus as He took up that cross?
2. What life challenge or sin that so easily entangles am I in that requires me to take a stand of endurance against it?
3. What joys lie before me that, fixing my eyes on them, will strengthen my endurance?
 
In this passage alone, I see hint of several things that may form some of the joys Jesus looked to.
 
1. Joy in the cloud of witnesses that would come forth because of His endurance.
2. Joy in the victory His endurance would produce in us as we overcome the cumbersome trouble this life too often holds.
3. Joy in the deliverance from sin His endurance would provide us.
4. Joy in the endurance we would possess as we set our eyes on His example to us.
5. Joy in the relationship with each of us that would come to Him and the Father because of His endurance.
6. Joy in the gift of grace available to us because He despised the shame and bore the cross in our place.
7. Joy in the fulfilling of the Father’s purpose, leading to His privileged position at God’s side.
 
There is much more we can add to this list of joys that had the focus of Jesus, strengthening His endurance. I don’t know about you, but there are many troubling situations and temptations to sin that I need this walk of endurance for, if I am to overcome and press through them in fulfilling God’s purpose and accomplishing His desire for me. Today, following Christ’s example, I set my sights on the joy before me that will strengthen my endurance, to the glory of His Name and the fulfilling of His purpose.
 
Assignment: Reading through Proverbs this month, I turn to chapter 3 and find there the call to persevere in several areas, followed by promised joy for successful endurance. Read Proverbs 3 and note there the call to stand firm. What “joy” do you see as a focus to aid endurance in the successful practice for each area of instruction? Now do this with your own life: List areas where your endurance is challenged. Next, list benefits of endurance that you can look forward to attaining as the joy set before you.

Pondering Our Privilege of Right to Restful Pastures

Read Hebrews 2:14-3:19

Focal passage: Hebrews 3:7-11

“Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, ‘Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me, as in the day of trial in the wilderness, where your fathers tried Me by testing Me, and saw My works for forty years. Therefore I was angry with this generation, and said, “They always go astray in their heart, and they did not know My ways”; as I swore in My wrath, “They shall not enter My rest.”’

Again today, I am in awe as I think on what God is speaking to my heart, beloved, and I pray I can paint the picture I see for you to capture as your own. It’s not new truth to me. It’s just the fresh winds of God’s breath reminding me of the fullness of His provision for us, which always produces awe of Him in me. So bear with me while we approach His glory.

Our chapter begins by pointing us back to chapter two:

“Since (Jesus) Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted. Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession” ~ Hebrews 2:18 and 3:1.

Like sheep, beloved, we too easily turn to grazing on our heart’s desire and go astray from the pastures of the Good Shepherd where His provision and rest are found. Even the godliest of us have times of “going astray in their heart” and failing to know God’s ways. Temptation to stray from the pastures of God is common to mankind (Romans 3:10; 1 Corinthians 10:13. Link to Scriptures on sin’s death).

Scripture tells us that even Jesus, who came in flesh, was “tempted in all things as we are”. Yet He faced temptation without sin and became our example to follow on our journey to freedom from this death – separation from God. (Hebrews 4:15)

For us to realize the truth of Jesus’ temptation, we must realize that His flesh was fully flesh, like our flesh, responding to temptations just as we do. This being true, we must understand that when he saw a beautiful woman, for example, His physical hormones responded as any man’s would. But He did not give Himself to those fleshly impulses.

I believe the picture God is giving me today about our heart’s path to restful pastures is the reason for Christ’s success that makes Him our example to follow. Thus following the instruction of this passage, we “consider Jesus” as we look to find the solution to those times when our desire tempts us away from the restful pastures of God’s presence. The following passages hold the KEYs I see that leads to our victory:

“(Jesus) was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was in all His house. For He has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, by just so much as the builder of the house has more honor than the house. For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God. Now Moses was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken later; but CHRIST WAS FAITHFUL AS A SON OVER HIS HOUSEWHOSE HOUSE WE ARE, IF WE HOLD FAST OUR CONFIDENCE AND THE BOAST OF OUR HOPE FIRM UNTIL THE END” ~ verses 2-6.

We are the temple of God, the body of Christ, being built up in Him. As such, beloved, we have full access to both the mind of Christ, who is the living, life breathed Word of God, and to the very heart of God, where the ways of His desire is made clear.

KEY: Jesus succeeded in walking in the righteousness of God by always maintaining the very heart of God within Himself. He has built us up into the House of God as the body of Christ, in which the very heart of God resides. When we “go astray from (our) heart”, this is the heart from which we stray.

Yesterday we pointed out in our pondering of our authority in Christ that Jesus always walked in His authority. How did He do that? Let’s take a peek:

When Jesus was called to fast in preparation for His earthly ministry, Satan tempted, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” In response, Jesus kept the heart of God by remembering the Word of God: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God’” ~ Matthew 4:3-4.

KEY: Jesus always held in the forefront of His mind the word of God as His spiritual weapon of choice against the whiles of the enemy of God: an enemy that includes the wisdoms of the flesh, the world, and the demonic (2 Corinthians 10:3-6; James 3:13-18).

This enemy is alive and well today, hard at work to lead God’s people astray. In following the example of Christ, the mind of Christ is ours to possess and access as our first line of defense, grabbing hold of the Living, life giving Word and wielding it with deadly accuracy at the head of that which comes against us to tempt us away from God (1 Corinthians 2:16).

Matthew 4:1-11 is the most common passage used by preachers whose teaching I have sat under when talking of Jesus’ way of handling temptation. Hebrews 4 tells us that Jesus was tempted in all things as we are. Though I have heard pastors use Matthew 4’s temptation account to say that His temptation there covered “all things”, the question of a student in one of my Bible studies tells me we need to show His temptation more clearly than that. She rightly observed that the temptation Jesus faced in His wilderness experience did not touch a lot of the things that led her to be tempted. As I sought the Lord for a response to this students inability to see Matthew 4 as an account of Jesus being tempted in “all things” as we are, God revealed to me how Jesus’ entire life journey reveals His temptation and shows us how to remain in the Heart of God in our own journey of facing the tempter. For example:

When Jesus wound up by a well alone in John 4 and a woman of ill repute showed up there with Him, his flesh had opportunity to be tempted to sin, and I sense in the Spirit that this was the intent of Satan. No one was there. He could have taken advantage of the situation to feed His flesh. But what kept Him from it? I believe we get a glimpse in the words of this passage that reveal His heart for the situation:

“Meanwhile the disciples were urging Him, saying, ‘Rabbi, eat.’ But He said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about.’ So the disciples were saying to one another, ‘No one brought Him anything to eat, did he?’ Jesus said to them, ‘MY FOOD IS TO DO THE WILL OF HIM WHO SENT ME AND TO ACCOMPLISH HIS WORK. Do you not say, “There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest”? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest’” ~ verses 31-35.

KEY: Jesus always maintained the heart of the Father for the work He was to accomplish, having His purposes in mind, holding it as the most needed food for life.

I could go on to talk about the times when Jesus was tempted by the push of the people to make Him King or to throw Him off hills to an early death rather than face a cruel cross: opportunities refused by Him who (KEY) trusted God’s timetable and His way. We could talk of the temptation to act the Pharisee by refusing to dine with sinners or be touched by them so as to please the spiritual leaders of the day, but Jesus countered that temptation by (KEY) remembering that it was for these He was sent. As the Apostle John said, the whole world could be filled with the books we can write of all Jesus did while He was here on the earth, setting the example for us.

The point to our discourse, Beloved, is that we fail to enter the rest God provides for us when we go astray in our hearts. We do that when we fall to the desires of our fleshly heart and fail to realize that we have the very heart of God beating within us in the power of the Spirit, through Jesus, the Christ.

God is always at the ready to direct us to His desires through the mind of Christ that is ready to breathe the Living Word into our being. He, the Living Word, is the Bread of Life, feeding every pore of our existence with right desires that accomplish God’s purpose, having knowledge of His ways.

Realizing these things equips us to remain in our right Heart, being a people after God’s own heart, believing in Him and desiring Him above all else. Believing God, taking Him at His word, living and breathing His purposes as fed by His very heart beating within us is the KEY to keeping our heart and remaining in the restful pastures He provides for our fulfillment.

“They always go astray in their heart, and they did not know My ways”. This does not have to be the truth of our reality when we realize the Heart that beats within us, and hold tight to the KEYS that feed us truth and righteousness. Only believe!