Create in me a pure heart

Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
    and cleanse me from my sin. Psalm 51:1-2

I find myself reading the above verse and crying out, “YES!” Not going to lie, I have been in quite a funk lately! I am not sure if it’s the groundhog day effect of working from home still, not getting enough sleep or what, but I’ve just been out of sorts. Plus that was a great worship song back in the day! (inserted below)

The above verse and many others in that VERY rich chapter in Psalms just resonated with me this morning. It goes on to talk about being cleansed with hyssop and being “whiter than snow!” Verse eight says, “Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.”

As I read through the rest of the chapter, a few things stood out. It wasn’t earth-shattering or even a lightbulb, aha moment, but more of a gentle comfort! I have read these verses numerous times and even have them highlighted in my Bible app, but today, as God so often does, they seemed new and fresh.

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me (v10). It is only God who can renew your heart or spirit, but when He does, they will be pure and steadfast!

Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me (v11). We have to remain in God’s presence to receive from Him what we need. Just as God shows us in John 15:5 where he teaches us that, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” We do that by staying in His Word … not to check off one of the items on your to-do list for the day, but to receive from Him our “daily bread”!

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me (v12) God is the only one who can restore us to Himself … and He WILL!!! This also speaks to the fact that our spirit isn’t always a willing participant and is often contrary to things of God, but that we can go to Him, and He will sustain or uphold us with a willing spirit.

It is ALL about Him! I got to focused on me and my woes! It is time to be recreated and restored! Thank God for His provision in this!

Do We Limit God?

As I meditate on God’s word this morning, I notice the Vitex tree growing outside my office window. I never planted this tree, it came with the house, and has continued to give me wonderful shade in the summer as I work in my office. From the past rains, this tree has just taken off, growing unlike it has all summer. I am caught up in the thought of what this tree is good for other than to give me shade. I think that it is like a lot of us believers, who have a purpose on this earth, and even though what we think our purpose is, God may have different ideas. For instance, I think this tree gives me shade, but it also provides nectar for the hummingbirds when it blossoms. The pollination process is going on all spring as the bees are totally busy within it. How many times, I am cheered on in the morning by a Wren or a Redbird, or a sparrow, watching me work at my desk from its branches. It’s like they have come to encourage me. How often have my chickens sought comfort under the spreading of its branches, from the weather, and from the hawks.  Come to think of it, God uses this tree for many more things than I can even imagine. Just its beauty alone, is worth reflecting on. So I’m reading this morning from Colossians: “For this reason also, since the day we heard this, we haven’t stopped praying for you. We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light. He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom  of the Son He loves. We have redemption, the forgiveness of sins, in Him.” Colossians 1:9-14  We often ask the Lord to show us His will, and wonder how He can possibly use us, since in our minds, we don’t possess any skills that could be of benefit to Him. And like our tree we think we have one purpose in life, yet God reveals in His glorious knowledge to those who honestly seek His will, the walk He wants us to walk, and in doing so, will He not use that walk for many more things than even we believe we are doing?  He wants us to bear fruit in EVERY good work as we grow in knowledge of Him. Yet how many times do we think we know the work that He has for us, and don’t deviate outside of that box. We often limit God’s perspective with us, because we don’t bother to see things like He sees them. But why can’t we? Why can’t we seek His understanding instead or ours? Why can’t we seek His will without trying to limit His perspective in us, by our own denial that we are even capable of doing anything else.  Think of my tree, your tree, and all the uses you can find for it, then remember that you are much more than a tree, useful to the Lord for HIS will not yours. It’s only when we surrender our will to Him that He can then grow us into fruit producers that He desires. Pastor Andy

Not Looking Back

The One interesting thing about a journey is that you meet new adventures, challenges, and trials every part of the journey. You don’t get to go back to the things you have already encountered. You may encounter similar issues and challenges, but they are still new and not the same. Sometimes however, we want to go back, and have things the way they were. But God, in His great wisdom knows what awaits us, and has His hand in the planning of the journey. We are reminded in Philippians 3:13-14: “Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.” Jesus reminds us also that, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62 So does that mean that we should forget about the past? Of course not, for many lessons and memories have been made there. The past however, is to teach us, just like we have been given the Old Testament to teach us about the history of Israel, and all God’s people, both good and bad. It’s important to remember the past so that we don’t repeat it on the journey forward, or that we do repeat that which we have learned and has made us stronger. It’s all about growth, and it is about focusing forward; it’s about keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus. Pastor Andy

Patience

While I was up in the woods this past week, part of my wandering around in the forest, I was met by what I call “wait a minute vines.” Those vines, so full of stickers that they just cling on to you and don’t let you pass. I was thinking of those crazy bushes and was wondering why God planted them. They seem to be so useless and the cause of a lot of frustration when trying to navigate the woods. But because I think everything is there to teach us, I look to the Lord for answers, and He tells me “Wait!” there seems to be much in Scripture that reminds us to WAIT. Maybe that’s my lesson for now. To learn to wait on the Lord. That’s something that I thought I was pretty good at, but there are many times that I get frustrated waiting. Perhaps you do too! We wait for the results of that test, and we become anxious; we wait for the notice whether we got the job or not, and we get anxious; we wait for the slow one in our family to get ready, and we get anxious. But the “wait a minute vines”, they don’t care how long you have to wait. It seems their only job is to keep you from going forward. Isaiah 30:18 says, “Therefore the Lord is waiting to show you mercy, and is rising up to show you compassion for the Lord is a just God. All who wait patiently for Him are happy.” Come to think about it, when I am patient in waiting, I am at peace, but there is something in me that is not patient, and I want things to happen in my time. But God doesn’t work on our time, but desires us to work in His time. Boy, that’s a lesson in patience! So I turn to Exodus 14:14 and read: “The Lord will fight for you; you must be quiet.” How many times have I tried to fight little wars by trudging forward ready to settle the score, when instead I should be quiet. In my heart, I know that the Lord will fight for me, and I am to wait on Him. Romans 8:25 tells us: “But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience.” I want to be one that waits on the Lord, to remain patient when everything in me wants to scream for action, for movement. Why is it so hard to wait? Why do I pull at the “wait a minute vines” in my life wanting to be free so I can continue my mission, when indeed I should be waiting for the Lord to move, instead of me to move. I have this hope, and I know this hope, yet there seems to only be so many hours in a day, and there is so much to accomplish. And the Lord tells me to wait patiently on Him. So I’m praying for patience once again. I’m praying for the ability to wait for His leading instead of trying so often to get out in front of Him. So I will do like the Psalmist: “Wait for the Lord; be strong and courageous. Wait for the Lord.” Ps.27:18 So if you are like me and struggle with patience, let’s take it a little slower today, and let the Lord be the leader. We just might find a little more peace and contentment. Pastor Andy

Be thankful

The below is from a Pastor friend of mine. It really struck a chord with me because … if I’m being honest with you … I have not been thankful or grateful lately. I have been self absorbed in some personal inadequacies and took my eyes off of who Christ is to me!

Reading out of Colossians: “Above all, put on love – the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of the Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, control your hearts. Be thankful. Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Colossians 3:14-17 When we find the secret of “putting on love” we become unified in a perfect bond with each other. Things of the world become less important, and things of eternity become our main focus. We love with the love of Christ, not judging, not loving with conditions, but wholeheartedly, with a pure heart toward each other. That can only come from a desire to share this love of Christ that so freely flows within us. But why is that so hard for many? Why is loving other believers difficult? I suspect that it is because we struggle with taking our thoughts off of ourselves and thinking of others before self. But in those moments when that can happen, the love of Christ rises like a bright morning sunlight, and shines brightly within the heart of each believer. For that I am thankful. For that I am grateful. For I know that true friendship goes beyond spending time together. It is fixed in the heart of each other, and becomes more important than anything else in this world. And with that I am most blessed, for I think at times so unworthy of understanding this great love, and so unworthy of giving and receiving this great love. All of this the world can never know because this only comes with Christ, and the ability and willingness to surrender all the fleshly part of ourselves, dying to them, so that we may live for Christ. So that is what I am thankful for today. And I will pray today that this thankfulness will become a daily fixture within my soul, and in you, and that we may live constantly, not under the stresses of the world but under the love of Christ and those who claim the name Christian.

The Choice Is Yours

“But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15

I love this version of this verse. As I read this last week a couple of things jumped out to me. First of all, the Lord gives complete freedom to make a choice regarding whom you will serve. It has been said that “there will be no fingernail marks leading to the gates of heaven”, meaning God is not dragging anyone into heaven. Our Father has given us the choice to serve Him or not!

The other thing that jumps out to me is … we (as humans) WILL SERVE SOMETHING or SOMEONE! We are built for relationship and ultimately we were built, whether we want to admit it or not, for a relationship with HIM!  He even points out some of the other gods (little “g”) who were previously served/worshipped by their ancestors. I am just as guilty as anyone else out there in putting other things before the one and only God … our Abba Father (daddy)!

As poorly as I have done with that over the 34+ years since I accepted Christ, I once again and daily choose that “as for me and my household, we will serve THE LORD!” (emphasis mine). I hope you will too! Blessings!

In the world … not of it!

Let my cry come right into your presence, God;
    provide me with the insight that comes only from your Word.
Give my request your personal attention,
    rescue me on the terms of your promise.
Let praise cascade off my lips;
    after all, you’ve taught me the truth about life!
And let your promises ring from my tongue;
    every order you’ve given is right.
Put your hand out and steady me
    since I’ve chosen to live by your counsel.
I’m homesick, God, for your salvation;
    I love it when you show yourself!
Invigorate my soul so I can praise you well,
    use your decrees to put iron in my soul.
And should I wander off like a lost sheep—seek me!
    I’ll recognize the sound of your voice. Ps. 119:169-176

I have to be transparent today, gentlemen! I typically don’t watch the news … even before all of the recent events of Covid and the riots. But, lately, I intentionally avoid it refusing to go to my normal news sites. With that said, I did see some news and was reminded why I have not watched it. I work with law enforcement officers/agents from all over the country and world. I saw some footage recently, in Portland I think, where officers were surrounded and physically attacked with bricks, Molotov cocktails, laser pointers and other items. They were beaten and assaulted in numerous ways. I can’t, for the life of me, come up with an understanding of one human doing this to another nor can I fathom a city allowing their officers to be treated this way. To be honest, I am finding it very hard to feel compassion for the rioters who end up hurt or worse and I recently made the statement that I will not allow myself to be at the receiving end of a butt whooping like was displayed in the news. I wish I could say this was one of those moments of “holy indignation” that comes from a heart of compassion, but it’s not! This just really … ummm … makes me mad!

The scripture noted above was a help to me in that it directs my prayers to receive from GOD what I need to understand this (not “my own understanding”) and for His deliverance. When I turn my lips to praise and my tongue to singing of His word, I will long for His salvation and not act like a lost sheep (as these rioters clearly are)! But, even if I do stray, seek me Lord and I will recognize your voice! How utterly awesome is our God! I pray, Father, for the grace I need in these times and that I would recognize the grace You have always shown me even before I knew you!

Toenails ooo

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I recently had to go to a podiatrist for a follow-up to get some new inserts for my shoes. As I sat there waiting for the Doc to come in, I notice the picture above on the wall. Now … I am NOT a foot guy! My time as a medic in the Air Force cured me of that when I had to run the “blister clinic” for the college ROTC students who were visiting our base. But, as I looked at the drawings of the various conditions, injuries, etc., I noticed that some of them depicted the toenail! I thought about, other than picking your nose or scratching a mosquito bite, what is the toenail (or fingernail) there for? God made us and everything about us for a purpose! Psalm 139:13 says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” The very next verse (14) tells us, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful.”.

A quick search on the internet for the use of fingernails and you can see a lot of answers from an evolutionary standpoint. These include scratching, picking things up and one that says we don’t need toenails at all anymore!!! Going back to the picture though, one thing I noticed is how small the point or end of the bone is on each of the toes and the nail is positioned directly over that fragile part of each digit! I have dropped things on or stubbed my toes a lot in my 50+ years and can’t imagine what damage would have been done if that little piece of keratin, which is the same protein that makes up your skin, hair, and fingernails, were not at the end of my toes!!!

God says in Genesis 1:27, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Toenails and all!!! I guess when I really get down to it and past all of the silliness of it all … it comes down for me to … if God made them that way, they are there for a reason and we still need them. In Luke 12:7 says that even “the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”

Brother, God loves you! He loves you enough to have knitted you in your mother’s womb, to know the number of hairs you have and to give you toenails! Don’t take anything he has blessed you with for granted! Seek Him in all your ways! And praise and glorify his name in all the earth!!!

Empty Calories … Empty Words

Yesterday, rickevatt who devotes himself to this blog several times each week, referenced some verses in Matthew 12 and verse 36 really caught my attention. It says,  But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.” I truly do not know how many times or in how many interpretations of the Bible I have read that in, but for some reason it really resonated with me yesterday. God is good that way!!!

I have been involved in sports, health, nutrition, etc., for the better part of my life and to be honest (TBH to be hip like the youngsters) … most of the time I have not been successful. When I was in the military, I worked for a doctor who was very fit and knowledgeable about this stuff; his wife was an incredible athlete and his sister was a smoke jumper! Someone in the office once offered him a piece of candy or something and I remember like yesterday him saying, “I don’t eat empty calories.” It struck me then and although I have remembered that now for 30+ years, I still struggle not to eat empty calories. Yesterday, all of this was brought back to me with the above verse and I realized how eating empty calories (calories with no nutritional value) is so like speaking empty words … words with no emotional or spiritual value. I was going to go into how calories require heat to deal with them and calories in vs calories out, blah, blah, blah, but I think most are aware of that. But … how many times a day do we consider the empty words we speak! Oh Jesus … if I could go back and not say so many of the hurtful things I have said in my life!!!

So … what are “non-empty words” or words that are full of life??? In a limited search and study, it really seems that most words can be or are empty … without action put with them. In James 1:22, the Word tells us, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”

I leave you with some other verses that address this and pray that we can DO what the Lord says and speak only those words that are FULL not empty! Blessings!!!

1 Cor 13:1-3:  If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Ezekiel 33:31:  My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to hear your words, but they do not put them into practice. Their mouths speak of love, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain.

1 John 3:18:  Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

Dear Friend …

As a result of the pandemic, I have worked from home since March. During that time, I have felt the Lord wanting me to do “something”! I have sought after what this is, sometimes diligently and (honestly) sometimes not so much! Ultimately, I feel he wants me to visit, get to know and pray for my neighbors! We are new hear and won’t be here long, so I have somewhat avoided any in-depth relationship building here. A pastor (Andy) who pastored a little country church where our daughter attended college, sent out an email yesterday encouraging people to reach out to those we know who “live in the dark”. His email resonated and even convicted me because for about 4 months now I have neglected to follow God’s leading. Pastor Andy suggested sending reaching out to those you know who are without God with the following letter/email/phone call. Besides this, I pray for God’s boldness to reach those neighbors we encounter on our walks, runs and other outings. What better way to bring unity than to reach someone for Christ? Here is Pastor Andy’s letter:

Dear friend; With all that is going on these days in the world, I’m sure there must be a part of you that has this fear. This fear is the uncertainty of what the future will look like, if not for you, then your children, or their children.  I will let you know, part of that fear strikes everyone, including those who put their faith and trust in Jesus. But this is where the truth of Jesus makes a difference. We believe that He is the Messiah, and as God’s Son, He came to this earth to seek and to save that which was lost. The bible tells us: “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. Anyone who believes in Him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God.”  John 3:16-18 I was once there also, not believing or caring, but I came to the place where I had nowhere else to go. I was faced with my own unbelief in One who I had rejected so long, and realized that He was who He said He is. When that happened, I was radically changed, not from my own will, but from Someone who opened up the eyes to my heart and revealed His truth to me. I have never been the same since. Millions of people have experienced His grace and His presence all over the world.  I see a nation torn apart by hatred, and for most part, a hatred that doesn’t even have merit or makes sense. But then if it is by some spiritual force, then you can understand that force of evil also exists in the world, and is trying desperately to dismiss or injure the blessed name of Jesus, so that you will not accept Him.  So the adversary tries hard to keep you in fear. But I want you to know that perfect love casts out fear, and Jesus is perfect love. In a society where that doesn’t mean much any longer, it means a lot to me. I write this because I do love you with the love of the Lord. And I want you to know that your life has meaning.  You are loved by God, even though it may not seem like it sometimes to you. But that’s because the adversary keeps you in fear, and tries to keep you away from the truth. But take a chance. What do you have to lose?  With Christ, you can gain everything, in eternity. Without Christ, you have nothing except torment. He didn’t promise us extra life here on this earth, but He did promise to be with us during the struggles that we will have to endure. We are told that if we want to be like Him, we must take up our cross and follow Him, which means that you still might have trouble in this world, but that trouble has no hold on you any longer. You will find peace and contentment and joy and love when surrounded  by those who love the Lord with all their hearts, even in the midst of storms which assail us.  If you are reading this today, it’s probably because someone who loves you dearly and sent it to you. Please don’t discount Christ. Please see Him for who He is, trust Him. Let go of the pride that keeps you from believing, and let Him change your heart, for He is desirous to do so.  I would even love to talk to you one on one, so e-mail me back. There is so much to share about the goodness of God found in Christ. Let HIm into your heart today. You won’t be disappointed.