The Phil Files

Musings & messages on everyday worship, Jesus, and the stuff of life.

Archive for February 2nd, 2008

Heart Deep

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Write them on the tablet of your heart.

Hmm. I’ve spent a lot of time learning facts — facts about history, facts about sports, facts about the weather, … facts about the Bible. Facts are important. Committing facts to memory can be crucial in all sorts of situations. However, when it comes to God’s stuff, the matters of love and faithfulness, facts play second fiddle to something else — my heart!

Knowing God, following Jesus, and being led by the Holy Spirit have often been reduced to religious practices, rules, and traditions. Like you, I am guilty of trying to reduce my life with God to manageable “go do” lists, and “go and do not do” lists. This makes things feel simple … formulaic … and quantifiable. I can make my own lists and decide who is in and who is out on the God stuff.

But God … this great and often repeated line in Scripture has a way of scrambling all sorts of human perversions of God’s grace and it wreaks havoc on our formulaic attempts of taming our lives with God. It most certainly re-arranges and re-orders my soul’s priorities in this matter.

But God … emphatically, repeatedly and consistently reminded His people that walking with Him centers on two holy habits of the heart: love and faithfulness. In all the discussion of the bits of wisdom in the Proverbs, maybe one of the very most important ones — second only to fear God — is this:

//Inspiration: Proverbs 3:3
Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.

God won’t let me settle for externals: not external religious observances, not external actions, and not external holiness. No, the Father wants love and faithfulness etched permanently on the tablet of my heart. He wants His words and His will alive in my interior world informing and transforming me from the inside out. Yes, the Almighty wants my obedience. Yes, the Holy One wants me to strive to be holy in everything I do and say and think. But without love and faithfulness etched into the fabric of my heart, sooner or later, the duplicity will out me and I will be revealed — my fake holiness, my skin-deep commitment, and my shifting loyalty exposed.

O God, so full of both glory and grace, I recognize that love and faithfulness are two primary attributes of your character. I confess that they are not so easy for me to reproduce. I confess further, that a part of me of would like to reduce these attributes to a list of “how to” steps. Deep in my soul, however, I know that only your Spirit can help etch these attributes of your character into my heart. So I ask, and I commit to earnestly seek, the deep water of your grace and open my heart to have You make Your character real in me, heart and soul deep. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Written by phil

February 2nd, 2008 at 10:44 pm

Psalm 17

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Hear me, LORD, my plea is just;
    listen to my cry.
  Hear my prayer—
    it does not rise from deceitful lips.
  Let my vindication come from you;
    may your eyes see what is right.
  Though you probe my heart,
    though you examine me at night and test me,
  you will find that I have planned no evil;
    my mouth has not transgressed.
  Though people tried to bribe me,
    I have kept myself from the ways of the violent
    through what your lips have commanded.
  My steps have held to your paths;
    my feet have not stumbled.

  I call on you, my God, for you will answer me;
    turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.
  Show me the wonders of your great love,
    you who save by your right hand
    those who take refuge in you from their foes.
  Keep me as the apple of your eye;
    hide me in the shadow of your wings
  from the wicked who are out to destroy me,
    from my mortal enemies who surround me.

  They close up their callous hearts,
    and their mouths speak with arrogance.
  They have tracked me down, they now surround me,
    with eyes alert, to throw me to the ground.
  They are like a lion hungry for prey,
    like a fierce lion crouching in cover.

  Rise up, LORD, confront them, bring them down;
    with your sword rescue me from the wicked.
  By your hand save me from such people, LORD,
    from those of this world whose reward is in this life.
  May what you have stored up for the wicked fill their bellies;
    may their children gorge themselves on it,
    may there be leftovers for their little ones.

  As for me, I will be vindicated and will see your face;
    when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.

\o/ — Comments Psalm 17: When I awake!! — \o/

I am not a good sleeper — never have been and don’t know if I ever will be! However, one of the blessings of reading through the psalms has been the obvious concern for God’s work in our lives while we sleep.

I lie down and sleep;
I wake again because the LORD sustains me!
(Psalm 3)

In peace I will lie down and sleep,
for you alone, LORD,
make me dwell in safety.
(Psalm 4)

I will praise the LORD, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
(Psalm 16)

Though you probe my heart,
though you examine me at night and test me,
you will find …
… when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.
(Psalm 17)

… weeping may remain for a night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.
(Psalm 30)

Several months ago I felt called to pray for the Lord to minister to me and to my family while we slept. Things were in a tough place for me and I wasn’t sleeping. Sometimes, when I finally go to sleep, I would have nightmares that would awaken me. I knew I needed the Lord’s help.

I had already noticed that when it came to preaching and teaching, I would often awaken with a clear message to share with God’s people after going to sleep wrestling with Scripture, but not knowing quite how to present it. If the Father graced me with this blessing, then I wondered what else He might do to bless me and shape me while I slept?

As I read through the Bible with this in mind, I suddenly began to see the “night shift work” that the Lord did in the lives of His people. Why not pray for Him to be active in my heart and soul while I sleep? Why not ask for His comfort, healing, wisdom, discernment, clarification, leading, and conviction to come from His work in me while my body slept?

I discovered that the collection of the Psalms goes over this theme of the Lord’s presence, protection, and blessing during our sleep several times. Far more than the words of children’s lullabies or rote bedtime prayers, the LORD’s protection while we sleep is just part of His watchful care and consistent molding of our character as we pray ourselves to sleep and into His presence each night.

Written by phil

February 2nd, 2008 at 10:17 pm

Psalm 16

with 2 comments

Keep me safe, my God,
    for in you I take refuge.

  I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord;
    apart from you I have no good thing.”
  I say of the godly who are in the land,
    “They are the noble people
    in whom is all my delight.”
  Those who run after other gods
    will suffer more and more.
  I will not pour out their libations of blood
    or take up their names on my lips.

  LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup;
    you have made my lot secure.
  The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    surely I have a delightful inheritance.

  I will praise the LORD, who counsels me;
    even at night my heart instructs me.
  I keep my eyes always on the LORD.
    With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

  Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
    my body also will rest secure,
  because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
    nor will you let your faithful 2 one see decay.
  You make known to me the path of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence,
    with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

\o/ — Comments Psalm 16: Apart from You I have no good thing — \o/

Simple, sweet, and succinct.

The LORD is my safety and refuge.
The LORD is my source of every good thing.
The LORD has caused my life to be lived in the place of blessing.
The LORD blesses me with His presence and eternal pleasures at His side.

So, my response is to praise the LORD and to anticipate His glorious future … which by grace includes me!

Written by phil

February 2nd, 2008 at 10:09 pm