STEP THREE, IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

“I have stored up Your word in my heart, that I might not sin against You.”  Psalm 119:11

A few months ago, while packing boxes, I was standing in a room full of books and items trying to determine what I needed to keep, and what could be given away or trashed.  There were things which, at one time, had been necessary for the moment but were no longer worth keeping.  I was trying to be very discerning as to what was most important; what was of great value to me; and what was of utmost importance to store.  If you’re like me, boxes of things you’ve forgotten about tend to follow you from one move to another.  It wasn’t an easy process, and at times it was emotional, but it was necessary in order not to waste storage space with things that I really didn’t need.  

Recently I was unpacking a box, and came across something my mom had kept and given to me years ago.  It was a sweatshirt from when I was in Kindergarten at Carnell Elementary; the Carnell Colts.  For those who know me, I can hear you joking about how I could probably still wear it.  Maybe I can, and maybe I can’t.  Nonetheless, I didn’t need it and it was just another thing to store somewhere that would continue to follow me, in a box, from one place to another.  Don’t get me wrong, just looking at it brought up some great memories.  It was the sweatshirt that made me run faster when I wore it, and gave me special skills when I was playing football at recess.  But it was time to part with the sweatshirt.  “Kenny, give me the woobie.”  (Those who know great lines from great classic movies will get that reference.)    

Here’s the point:  It is hard to store what is most valuable, necessary, and important when there are lesser things taking up space.  I’m speaking of something of much greater worth and significance than the things of this world that get lost, are stolen, fade away, become destroyed, or rust.    

The Psalmist writes,“I have stored up Your word in my heart, that I might not sin against You.”  Psalm 119:11

To “store” something means that I not only keep it, but in this context in the Hebrew writings it means to “hide away,” because it is like treasure.  In other words, the writer of this psalm is saying that God’s word is of such great value in showing me how to navigate life so that I take steps in the right direction, that its counsel, comfort, and truths are worth treasuring in the place where my emotions are stirred.  God’s word is of great worth because it becomes guardrails to my affections and emotions, pointing them in a Godward direction.  As well, it speaks truth to the thoughts in my mind that so often can become conflicting.   

CLEAN OUT THE CLUTTER . . .

There was a popular show a few years ago, Hoarders, that shed light on compulsive behavior revealed to hoarding items within a home: food, trash, books, toys, clothes, and other things piled up to the ceiling, blocking the hallways, filling up rooms,  thus making it impossible for healthy and safe living conditions. There were some episodes that were hard to watch.  To see what some people had become trapped in due to trauma or a tragedy in their lives was heartbreaking to say the least.  The purpose of the show was to bring in help by way of therapists and professional organizers to assist in the physical clean up, as well as ongoing counseling for those suffering from compulsive hoarding disorder.  Some were success stories; others were not.  

When I think about what I’ve stored in my heart, and what I still have a tendency to hoard, they are certainly not things that keeping me from sinning against God, but rather keep me in sin against God:  anger, jealousy, envy, pride, unforgiveness, and the list could go on.  Some of these are blatantly obvious; you can see them clearly.  But there are, perhaps, those feelings and thoughts that have been tucked away deep in the recesses of your heart and mind, that you have kept so long, yet give no thought to, that are negatively affecting your life in ways you haven’t really considered.  All of these take up space that crowds out our heart, and leaves no room for the true treasure we need to store.  When God shows me what I need to rid my heart of, as I confess those things as sin, I begin to experience and enjoy the freedom found in treasuring Him.      

King David, prayed this in Psalm 139:  “Search me, O God, and know my heart!  Try me and know my thoughts!  And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”  In other words, David was acknowledging, “God you know my heart.  You know what hurts me, and grieves You!  Show me and lead me in how to really live life well!”   

I’ve found that asking God to show me what is in me, that I’m not even aware of, is a healthy spiritual discipline that eliminates the clutter and creates space for the true treasure God has for me.  It believe it will be for you, as it is for me, a daily discipline that will help you take steps in the right direction.   

KEEP THE TREASURE . . .

There is a state park not too far from where I live that is known for digging for diamonds.  People will come from all over the country to explore the 900-plus acres in hopes of unearthing diamonds.  Just a few years ago, there was an 8-carat diamond found that was worth close to $500,000.  That’s crazy.  I really do need to get a shovel.  

Can you imagine digging up a diamond that’s worth half a million dollars?  Talk about finding treasure.  But there’s a different kind of treasure in God’s word that is lasting; it’s eternal; and it is much more valuable than an 8-carat diamond.  I can hear some saying I’ll take the $500K . . . in cash, please.  Money isn’t evil, but the love of it sure is.  I don’t have time to tell you the countless stories of people who thought they had true treasure after winning a lottery, only to later declare for bankruptcy. 

When your soul lives lavishly on the riches of God’s word you have stored in your heart, you recognize more clearly the worthless trinkets the world seeks to sell you as treasure.  I’ve come to realize that when a heart is void of the authentic treasure of God’s word, it will easily pursue what deceptively sparkles like diamonds.  

To begin a day without storing up the life-sustaining and life-protecting treasure of God’s word, is like waking up and deciding to walk across the Sahara Desert with no water or food.  You will not make it far.  So, I strive to begin each day digging into the Scriptures.  And daily, I always come away with treasure that enriches my life, and helps me take one more step in the right direction.

As you think on this, ask yourself, What do I need to rid my heart of that is keeping me from storing up true treasure and taking one more step in the right direction?  

THE BELOVED OF HIS SOUL

beloved_by_panhead13-d6q1tw9Jeremiah is not an easy book to read.  I feel for the guy, and for the people of Israel and Judah.  But even more, my heart grieves for God that His own people, the beloved of His soul, would chase after false gods and the pseudo-pleasures of this life.  Truth be told, we are no different than Israel and Judah, and God’s heart still grieves for the wandering soul.

Day after day, and year after year, Jeremiah warned the people of God that unless they repent, they would experience the discipline of God at the hands of their enemies.  God had been patient, offering mercy to penitent hearts, but still Israel and Judah sought to dig the empty wells, and hold onto the broken jars, of their own selfish pursuits that would never satisfy; it would only lead to a famished soul.

The very thing they desired and chased after, is the very thing God allowed them to experience.  From the outside it looked as though they were prospering; living life to the fullest.  Even Jeremiah seemed dumbfounded when he asked God, “Why does the way of the wicked prosper?  Why do all who are treacherous thrive?  You plant them, and they take root; they grow and produce fruit; You are near in their mouth and far from their heart.”  Jeremiah 12:1-2

That’s the lie of the enemy, Satan, isn’t it?  He has a way of making that which is toxic at the core look like a delicious desert.  He promises the riches of the world that are alluring, while turning your eyes away from the small print disclaimer that speaks of the true price you’ll pay.

God reminded Jeremiah that what looked like prospering and thriving was really a people dying.  And it broke God’s heart.  He would step back and give His own people over to their ruthless enemies who they had become like.  And the reason God was willing to do that was so that Israel and Judah would come to their senses (repent of their sins) and see that only in God is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore. (See Psalm 16:11)

For God to step back and watch His people choose the lesser things over the immeasurable treasure of being in relationship with Him, grieved Him.  “I have forsaken My house; I have abandoned My heritage; I have given the beloved of my soul into the hands of her enemies.”  Jeremiah 12:7

He disciplined them because He loved them.  I realize that seems an odd statement, especially in today’s culture where discipline has gone the way of rotary phones.  Even now some of you are even wondering “What are rotary phones?”  But the writer of Hebrews sheds some light on why God would discipline us as His children when he says, “For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives . . . He disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness.  For the moment disciplines seems painful rather than pleasant (can I get an “Amen”), but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. ”  Hebrews 12:6, 10-11)

For those who have placed their full trust in what Jesus Christ did on the cross so that we might be forgiven of sin and have a relationship with God, you are His beloved!

He has proven that by giving the beloved of His soul, His only son Jesus, into the hands of the enemy; not because Jesus was disobedient, but because He would be the sacrifice for our sin, our rebellious disobedience.  Jesus, by taking on our sin, was rejected and abandoned by His own Father, while on the cross, so that we would not have to be.  It is in Christ we find forgiveness of sin, the fullness of joy, true treasure, and an eternal inheritance that is being kept for us until the day we see Him face to face.  It is in Christ that we are the beloved of His soul.

So, if you are at a place in life where you are more like Israel and Judah, digging empty wells and holding broken jars; chasing after what will never really satisfy, but will only leave your thirsty soul famished, come back to the true Lover of your soul; to the One who calls you His beloved.